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Validating Variable Length Lists In API Responses

whaaker Posts: 49

You are data driving an API with your SOAtest test and you have data validation requirements on an array of data the API returns. This can be problematic because depending on the request parameters, which you've externalized into a data source, you will receive varying length arrays coming back in the API response. Since traditional data sources are two-dimensional (columns and rows), there is a problem because you have to account for a third dimension. Instead of hitting your head against the wall wondering how to construct multiple data source sheets to manage this hierarchy, there is a nice application of XPath that makes this problem easier to overcome.

Let's first take a look at how your data source can be constructed. This will also help to visualize the desired data validation described in the problem.

Here you can see I'm using a delimiting character '|' to separate the variable length accountIds I am expecting to see in my response depending on which data source row is being executed. Next, let's look at how the JSON Assertor in my SOAtest Test needs to be configured.

You can see the expected value is set to the Excel column that contains the delimiter we used. The magic that makes this validation possible is a customized XPath using the XPath function "string-join()".

Notice the string-join() function has two parameters. An XPath, and our delimiter String. You will want to start off with an XPath that locates all the accountIds in the response payload, and then use the string-join() function that will append your delimiting character in-between each node the XPath selects. If you want to learn more about the string-join() XPath function, see: https://www.w3schools.com/xml/xsl_functions.asp

And that's all it takes!


  • whaaker
    whaaker Posts: 49

    The above solution works nicely when you have manageable size lists you want to validate, especially given there is no coding required. What happens if your data validation requirements are more complex? When the variable length lists get long, it's going to become unmanageable to compress all that data into one cell in your spreadsheet. For that, we need a slightly more complex solution; don't worry it isn't any less elegant!

    Solution 2:
    The previous approach was elegant because we kept our test design constrained to a single Excel data source. To better manage the hierarchical data, a second worksheet of data that is correlated with your main looping data source is necessary. Sticking with the previous example, here's what your second spreadsheet might look like:

    Notice this worksheet has more rows than the previous one and we have "customerIds" as the key column linking this data to your main worksheet's data. So what we want to configure is a test that loops 3 times, once for each customerId from the main worksheet; then for each of those customerIds we want to find the matching accountIds to that customerId within the second worksheet and compare that list of accountIds with the list of accountIds returned in our JSON response from the service. Oh, and if you're wondering whether SQL Data Sources instead of Excel would be possible here, the answer is absolutely!

    To begin, we must add that second worksheet as an Excel Data Source to the TST file. Make sure both Data Sources have the "Stop processing the spreadsheet at the first empty row" checkbox checked.

    Next, we have to address the complexity of two iterable data sources to ensure the TST file is going to handle our desired looping strategy properly. To do this, open the root Test Suite editor in your TST file and go to Execution Options > Test Execution > Advanced Options. Make sure the "Multiple data source iteration" drop-down is set to "Flat (lockstep)".

    Now that we have the data sources ready to do, let's go back to that JSON Assertor. One thing to pay close attention to is what Data Source is selected in your JSON Assertor's Data source drop-down on the top right of the editor. Make sure the JSON Assertor's data source is the one pointing to your second worksheet, while the REST Client it is attached to is pointing to the data source for the primary worksheet from the first example.

    For the assertion in this case, you want to add a Custom Assertion. For the Element Selection, you're going to use the same XPath trick I covered in the previous solution. We want the input of our Groovy script to contain the delimited list of data we're interested in asserting on.

    For everyone's convenience I decided to share this script to hopefully make your lives easier in constructing this kind of complex assertion. See the attached CompareASC.txt file to this post and use it in your Custom Assertion editor within the JSON Assertor. You can edit the String parameters at the top of the script to reflect the data source names and column names relevant in your test. To add additional debugging while playing with this script, uncomment the lines that start with "Application.showMessage". These print statements will appear in the SOAtest Console when you run the test. Last but not least, don't forget to check the "Use data source" checkbox as seen in this screenshot:

    And with that, you're ready to run the test and start editing the expected data in your data sources to watch it fail when there isn't a match.

  • goofy78270
    goofy78270 Posts: 127

    Since sort order is not guaranteed in JSON arrays, unless programmatically accounted for in the API resposne, will this account for possible order variations between runs?

    ie first run returns array results as A, B, C, D but the second or nth run returns the data as B, D, C, A.

  • whaaker
    whaaker Posts: 49

    Great question @goofy78270 ! Yes, my script does account for variable orderings between runs. If you look at lines 40 and 41 at the beginning of the else block, you'll see that it sorts both the responseList and expectedList before checking for equality.

  • goofy78270
    goofy78270 Posts: 127
    edited August 2020

    I think the sort is great, but if there are mutliple values in the array objects, such as id, fname, and lname, and the sort is simply on the field in question (lname), the sort could be off. I have found that the sort should be based on a unique field within the array objects to ensure they are sorted the same and not just based on the evaluated value.

    I have ran into this issue multiple times, specifically when comparing responses between two different calls or services.

  • whaaker
    whaaker Posts: 49

    Hi @goofy78270 , that is correct. In the example I described in this post, the Custom Assertion is acting on a common, or unique, field within the array of same-objects in the JSON Response. In other words, it is sorting all the "id" fields and then comparing that with a sorted list of expected "id" fields. If you have multiple fields you want to assert on in this manner, then one approach would be to create a separate Custom Assertion for each of those fields.