Pagination in GraphQL

July 28, 2019 • ☕️ 2 min read


Wikipedia defines pagination as the process of dividing a document into discrete pages, either electronic pages or printed pages.

In Software engineering, pagination allows us query data by a certain length and also by sections.

There are two primary types of GraphQL pagination styles we’d be discussing:

  1. Offset Pagination
  2. Cursor Pagination

Setting up Environment

To follow this tutorial, clone the git repository at https://github.com/felixiho/paginationExample.

Checkout to branch step1 by doing git checkout step1 and run npm install.

To start the server, run nodemon index

Go to https://localhost:4000 and you’ll see something like this

GraphQL output

Copy and paste this inside the console and click on the play button.


The response should look like this. GraphQL response

Next, we’ll talk about implementing pagination on this response.

Offset Pagination

In offset pagination, we specify two parameters in our query; first and offset.

first is an integer specifying the number of results you’d like to get.

offset is an interger that specifies the number of results you’d skip before invoking first.

To implement this on our server, we update our hostels query type to

type Query {
    hostels (first: Int, offset: Int): [Hostel]

We also need to update the hostels resolvers to use the new arguments now being passed to it.

const resolvers = {
  Query: {
    hostels:  (root, args) => {
      const {first, offset} = args; 
      const result =  offset === undefined ?
                        hostels.splice(0, first)
                          : hostels.splice(offset, first);
      return result;

To see the results, we modify the initial query like this before clicking on play.

  hostels(first: 4, offset: 2){

This skips the first two and returns the next 4 items.

To see the completed code, checkout to branch step2.

git checkout step2.

Offset pagination albeit easy to implement, might skip some results in scenerios where new entries are added to the database during the query.

This is where cursor pagination outshines it.

Cursor Pagination

In cursor pagination, we specify a ‘cursor’ that tells the server where to start getting data from. A new cursor variable is returned everytime the server responds to your query. This cursor variable is then passed to the next query. Note that we can still pass a limit as a variable.

A cursor can be any variable from a timestamp to an Id. Nonetheless, timestamps are preferred because it solves our problem of new data being added or existing data being deleted during our query processes as seen in offset pagination.

First, We update our query to include the createdAt field.

  hostels(first: 4) {

The response now contains the date which each item was created. Next we write the resolver.