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Version: 2023sp

Lecture 6

Lecture Slides

Assignment 3 Due Wednesday 4/19 11:59 PM

Data Fetching

Data fetching is getting information (data) from an outside source (e.g. REST API)

In this lecture we'll be discussing how to fetch data through traditional HTTP requests (so far the most popular way), but keep in mind that there are other ways to fetch data out there, which we will cover later.

HTTP Requests and Responses

So far, the information we've talked about has been mostly about the client side of a web application. Clients are computers users use to access our web applications (phones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, etc). Client side refers to the processing that takes place locally on the user's machine where the client can see the results. So, tasks that requires browsers to run scripes on the client machine without involving any processing on the server are client side tasks. Examples of client side operations are rendering images, registering user input, or clicking buttons.

In the final half of he course, we will be talking about the server side of a web application. Servers are also computers, however servers centralize information and run code to communicate with multiple clients in addition to executing operations on data. So, server side refers to the processing that is not visible to the client and is done on the server. So, tasks such as validating submitted data and requests, storing and retrieving data from databases, and sending corrent data to the client are all examples of server side operations.

client server model


HTTP requests require one method that indicates the type of request being sent and how to handle the request. The most common methods used are:

  • GET: retrieving information
  • POST: sending information with the request
  • DELETE: deleting information
  • PUT/PATCH updating information

Metadata can be put in the body of a request and can be written in many forms (most common is JSON or XML). For example, a POST request to login into a users' account will likely contain account information such as an email and pasword to be authenticated on the server in the body.

Tools like Postman allow you to make these requests. So, if you're ever building a backend server, you can test that your API routes are working.


After sending a HTTP request, the server will respond with a specific status code to give us a general summary of how the request was handled. This helps us determine whether a request was successful or why it was unsuccessful.

Most common response codes:
404Not found
500Internal server error (uncaught exception)

For a more comprehensive list, click here.

How do we fetch (in React)?

So how do we fetch data with our React frontend?

Two important things to note:

  1. Modern browsers have a nifty little JavaScript function called fetch that you can use to call API endpoints. Libraries such as axios provide similar functionality. There are also libraries like swr that provide easy ways to re-fetch resources automatically.

  2. The useEffect React hook allows you to trigger side effects, such as fetching data!

We want to keep track of our data in our component state, and use hooks like useEffect to fetch the data and update the state accordingly!

Fetching Example

Consider this snippet of code:

// This corresponds to the type of data you expect to get back in your response
type DataType = readonly string[];

const App = () => {
const [data, setData] = useState<DataType>([]);

useEffect(() => {
.then((res) => res.json())
.then((d) => setData(d));
// ... other methods, return, etc

Here are the important parts:

  • We have data in our component state. Later, we call setData on what the backend sends to us.
  • We declare a type definition for the useState call so that TS knows the type of data we're working with. (It can't infer type from an empty array!)
  • The useEffect hook is used to subscribe to new data.
  • fetch(...) is called on an API link, followed by .then(...) calls that format the response into json and then setData to the response. The .then() calls exist because fetch() returns a Promise (this is explained below)

Let's take a deeper look at fetch!


"stop trying to make fetch happen ๐Ÿ‘ง"

fetch(resource, [init]) is a native browser function for making web requests.

Its params are:

  • resource: URL of the site you are fetching from
  • init: optional object containing any custom settings you want to apply to the request.
// your init object might look like this
// HTTP request method
method: 'GET', // | 'POST' | 'PUT' | 'DELETE' | etc
// Any request headers you want to add
headers: {
'content-type': 'application/json',
// Request body (remember to stringify!)
body: JSON.stringify(requestBody),
// ... other settings
  • For more on the init object, refer to this link!

IMPORTANT: fetch() returns a PROMISE!


Operations like web requests don't complete instantly! So, while the request is being completed, you want the browser to work on other more important tasks instead of stalling everything and waiting until the operation is complete.

Promises represent the eventual completion (or failure) of an async operation. What does async mean?

async: the result arrives at an unspecified time, outside the sequential execution context of the rest of your code

Promises are in one of three possible states:

  • pending: initial state; neither fulfilled nor rejected
  • fulfilled: operation completed successfully
  • rejected: operation failed


.then() is a function on Promises that return a promise.

p.then(onFulfilled, onRejected);

Let's break this down!

  • p is a Promise.
  • onFulfilled is the callback function that is run when p is fulfilled
  • onRejected (OPTIONAL) is the callback function for when p is rejected
(value) => {
// fulfullment handler
(reason) => {
// rejection handler

You don't usually have to include an rejection handler since the .catch() method is an alternative you will typically use to handle rejections and errors. More on that later...

Let's talk about types! p in this case might be fetch(), which returns the type Promise<Response>. If so, then value would have the type Response. Then, if the fulfillment handler (which takes in value) returns type string, then the entire expression would be type Promise<String>.

If you've taken CS 3110 or done some functional programming outside of this class/category theory, this might make you think of Monads/Applicatives/Functors. The specified behavior for Promises in JS/TS don't exactly follow the laws of what was just listed, but for learning purposes it may be helpful to roughly compare the then function to fmap or bind.

If you're interested, take a look at this snippet and notice how the types behave:

// promise: Promise<Response>
const promise = fetch('something');

// kindaFunctor: (res: Response) => number
const kindaFunctor = (res: Response) => res.status;

// kindaMonad: (res: Response) => Promise<string>
const kindaMonad = (res: Response) => res.text();

// newPromise1: Promise<number>
const newPromise1 = promise.then(kindaFunctor);

// newPromise2: Promise<string>
const newPromise2 = promise.then(kindaMonad);


.catch() is a function on Promises that catches a rejection.


For example, you might want to console.log errors:

.catch((err) => console.log(err));

Note that onRejected takes a parameter of type any, since we don't know the type of the error we will get.

Using .then() with fetch()

fetch() returns a Promise that resolves to a Response object.

Consider this snippet, similar to one shown above:

.then((res) => res.json())
.then((d) => setData(d))
.catch((err) => console.log(err));

We can have multiple .then() calls within each other! Here we are getting the response from an endpoint and then calling .json() on the response and then calling setData on the result of json().

If a promise gets rejected anywhere along this chain, we will log the error in our console.


If you have too many .then() calls within each other, you might build a PYRAMID OF DOOM โ˜ .

By adding the async keyword to a function, we make it an asynchronous function. Within async functions, we can use the await keyword to wait for a Promise to return before continuing on to the next statement within the function.

Here is an example of doing equivalent things with either syntax:

const thenCatchExample = () => {
.then((res) => res.json())
.then((d) => setData(d));

const asyncAwaitExample = async () => {
const res = await fetch(``);
const d = await res.json();

In order to handle rejected Promises using async/await, just wrap all your await statements in a try...catch block!

Like this:

try {
} catch (error) {
// display any errors that may occur from async/await function

Quick Postman Demo

Check out Postman to send API requests! Here

Live Demo Material

You can get the starter code for the live demo by running: yarn create next-app --typescript --example "" YOUR_DIR_NAME

(Replace YOUR_DIR_NAME with whatever you want to name your directory!)