Recursively Assert All Properties Are Non-null Using Reflection

A valuable method that can be used to improve testing strength.

Posted on February 22, 2022

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On The Test Grind

On the grind like Rocky. Who doesn't like Rocky?

I've been on my testing grind recently for my startup work. I've been writing tests all over the 'testing pyramid' (end-to-end, integration, and unit) at the API, mobile application, and web layers. Over the past few months, I've seen (and read) everything under the sun (curse you, jest mocks!) that has to do with testing codebases.

But this post isn't going to be a rant or discussion about what the "golden standard" for testing is, how many of each type of tests you should write, etc. The more I read about testing software, the more I realize there is no one 'correct' way to do testing. Perhaps the most important testing takeaway I can impart to you from all that I've read is that testing's main purpose should be for you and your team to feel confident about shipping your code to who really matters: your customers. Have you hammerred the most-used customer-facing and customer-critical features with the most tests? Are you sure that when you encounter a bug, you write a test to ensure that bug doesn't pop up again? Questions like these are the right questions, while "how much code coverage should I acheive?" and "what is the 'best' testing framework" are essentially the wrong question.

The Use Case

Anyway, this post concerns mainly the integration testing of the API layer. At the API (think: backend) layer, you may have some nice objects that represent your domain entities. When I say 'nice' objects, I mean big objects. Maybe they have Lists or Collectionss in them, and strings, and ints and everything in between. While you may have defined only certain fields as 'required', such as the Id, perhaps in testing you want to be sure that simply every single field is non-null.

With C#'s reflection abilities, we can recursively inspect every property in a given object and report if that property is null or not. Further more, I think in some cases, you may want to check the required properties only to be non-null. This closer reflects (no pun intended) validations required in your actual codebase, where as a full check of every property is more of a 'human' check, or perhaps a check of what an end customer would see, if you are shipping this particular domain to the client.

I call it... AssertPropertiesAreNonNull !

AssertPropertiesAreNonNull

Here it is:

using System;
using System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations;
using System.Linq;

// Asserts that all required properties (via the 'Required' attribute) 
// be non null using Shouldly
// Optionally include all properties if desired
private static void AssertPropertiesAreNonNull<T>(T obj, bool onlyRequiredProperties = true)
{
    if (obj == null)
    {
        return;
    }

    var objType = obj.GetType();

    // Get either only required properties or ALL properties
    var properties = onlyRequiredProperties ? objType.GetProperties()
        .Where(x => x.GetCustomAttributes(false).OfType<RequiredAttribute>().Any()) : 
    objType.GetProperties();

    foreach (var property in properties)
    {
        var propValue = property.GetValue(obj, null);
        var elems = propValue as IList<object>;

        // Another layer 
        if (elems != null)
        {
            foreach (var item in elems)
            {
                AssertPropertiesAreNonNull(item, onlyRequiredProperties);
            }
        }
        else
        {
            if (property.PropertyType.Assembly == objType.Assembly)
            {
                AssertPropertiesAreNonNull(propValue, onlyRequiredProperties);
            }
            // Reached the end of the tree
            else
            {
                // Use Shouldly to assert that the propValue should not be null
                propValue.ShouldNotBeNull();
            }
        }
    }
}

The reflection code used here is very similar to the reflection-based JSON patch filter I've built previously.

Also note the final assertion step. I'm using the Shouldly framework, a LINQ-like way of doing asserts, since it's commonly used in tandem with a test library like xUnit or nUnit. If you check out the .NET Fiddle I've created, I provide other options at the assertion step: Maybe you just want to log what properties are null, or maybe you just want to throw an Exception altogether. It's up to you.

Example

I've created a .NET Fiddle for your enjoyment, and also a cleaner, copy-paste ready version on the snippets page.

Possible Improvements

If we see a List, we should probably loop through each element in that list and check if any of those elements are null as well - you'll note that in the .NET Fiddle example this is currently not the case.

Thanks!

Hope you enjoyed this post, and that you can use this in your automated testing.

Cheers! 🍻

-Chris

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