March 3, 2022

Using the GitHub GraphQL API with Apollo Studio Explorer

Ceora Ford

Ceora Ford

GraphQL APIs provide data that can be extremely useful to you, your team, or your project. Being able to test and run queries for GraphQL APIs can help you build well-designed queries for your application. Apollo Studio Explorer helps you do this.

This is especially useful when you’re working with large APIs that contain lots of types and fields. The GitHub GraphQL API is one such API. So let’s test out Apollo Studio Explorer by building queries for the GitHub API.

This article will discuss the capabilities of the GitHub GraphQL API. You’ll also get a step-by-step guide on building 3 useful queries. By the end, you’ll be familiar with building queries and using Apollo Studio Explorer.

Before you read…

There are a few things you’ll need before diving into this tutorial:

  • You have an understanding of what GraphQL is. If you need help with this, check out this What is GraphQL article.
  • You have a GitHub account and an understanding of Git and GitHub features specifically repositories, repository stars, and issues.

If you’ve got all this covered, you’re more than ready to jump in! Let’s start by going over the GitHub API and some of its features.

What Is the GitHub GraphQL API?

GitHub has a public GraphQL API. Many developers are familiar with how GitHub works so using GitHub’s GraphQL API is a great way to get familiar with GraphQL and Apollo Studio Explorer without having to build your own graph from scratch.

With the GraphQL API, you can…

  • run queries and mutations.
  • access and mutate data for most of GitHub’s staple features including repositories, users, issues, and much more.
  • create custom integrations and automate workflows with the data you retrieve.

A tool like Explorer can help you navigate the API, quickly build queries, and will help you to take full advantage of all the GitHub API has to offer.

The Setup

Before we begin building queries, we need to do a few things to get up and running.

Getting Your GitHub API Access Token

As mentioned earlier, you need a GitHub account. To access GitHub’s GraphQL API, you’ll also need your personal access token. If you don’t know how to retrieve that, check out this guide on creating personal access tokens. When you’re choosing permissions, you only need to select repo. Once you have your token, be sure to save it for later use and DO NOT share with anyone.


To run the GitHub API in Apollo Studio Explorer, you’ll need to authenticate your API requests using the access token you retrieved in the previous section.

Navigate to the GitHub API home page in Apollo Studio. Click the Run in Explorer button located in the top right-hand corner.

Click Run in Explorer button in Apollo Studio Explorer

Before you can test and run queries, you’ll need to add your token as a Header. Click +New Header and select Authorization. In the next field type bearer followed by your access token. It should look like bearer XX-GH-PERSONAL-ACCESS-TOKEN-XX

Add Authentication headers with the GitHub access token as the value

Notice that the first pre-filled header is deselected.

With authentication out the way, let’s test out the API and Explorer by building some queries.

Building Queries

The GitHub API is massive and there is so much data available. In this tutorial, we’ll focus on retrieving information about your repositories. We want to create a query that will return all of your repositories, return the number of stars for a repository that you search by name, and return open issues for a repository that you search by name.

First, start by deleting all the preselected fields.

Remove preselected fields in Apollo Studio Explorer

Building a query that returns your repositories

To retrieve the names of your repositories, your query will look like this:

<meta charset="utf-8">query getRepositories($last: Int, $isFork: Boolean) {
  viewer {
    repositories(last: 10, isFork: false) {
      nodes {

The query is named getRepositories. (You can change the name if you like). The viewer field holds information about your GitHub account including repositories. We need to include last and isFork as arguments. The last argument takes an integer and indicates the number of repositories that will be returned to you. The isFork argument is defined by a boolean and determines if the repositories returned will be forked repositories or not. In this example, last is set to 10 and isFork is set to false.

There is a lot of data available in repositories but to get the names of your repositories, you need to access nodes and names which is a field within nodes. Your query is complete and now you can run it to see your repository names being returned.

Click run query button in Apollo Studio Explorer

Building a query that returns your repository stars

To retrieve the number of stars on a repository that you search by name, this is what your query will look like:

query getRepostioryStars($name: String!, $owner: String!){
  repository(name: "repo-name", owner: "repo-owner") {

The query is named getRepositoryStars. The repository field contains data about a repository that you search by name and owner. You specify what repository you want data for by defining the name and owner arguments. Finally, the stargazerCount returns an integer which will be the number of stars on the repository you previously specified.

Your query is complete and you can run it in Explorer to see how many stars your repository has.

Building a query that returns your repository issues

You would use the following query to retrieve the open issues of a repository that you search by name:

query getIssues($name: String!, $owner: String!, $last: Int, $states: [IssueState!]){
  repository(name: "repo-name", owner: "repo-owner") {
    issues(last: 10, states:OPEN) {
      edges {
        node {
          author {

This query is called getIssues. You worked with repository already. Just remember to replace repo-name and repo-owner with the name of the repository you’re interested in and your GitHub username respectively. The issues field is selected and it has last and states are arguments. You’ll want to pull the last 10 open issues so set last to 10 and states should be OPEN. The data we want is within edges and node.

Within node, there are a few pieces of information you’ll need. The issue author name is important. The author field and login subfield will give you that information. The title of the issue and the date it was made are also valuable. You might also want the URL to the issue. You can get this information with title, urll, and publishedAt, all of which are subfields of node.

Your query for retrieving repository issues is complete. You can run it to see the information the API will return to you.

What Next?

By now, you’ve gotten more familiar with Apollo Studio Explorer by building and testing queries with GitHub GraphQL API. What can you do next?

If you’d like to try the queries outlined in this article yourself, you can easily access them in this Operations Collection. Operations Collection is a new feature we recently released that enables you to save, organize, and share your graph’s frequently used GraphQL operations. You can read about them more in this blog post announcement.

If you want to improve your GraphQL knowledge, check out this free and interactive GraphQL training course. You can learn more about Explorer and its features with our guide to getting started with Explorer.

Written by

Ceora Ford

Ceora Ford

Read more by Ceora Ford