Documentation Guidelines

This document describes the documentation requirements and guidelines to be followed during the development of PlasmaPy and affiliated packages.

Building documentation

Documentation is built from the master branch on every commit pushed to it.

Sphinx, the documentation generator of PlasmaPy, uses reStructuredText (reST) as its markup language. A primer on reST is available at this webpage of Sphinx’s website.

Using sphinx within the project

To build docs locally, either:

  • use Tox with tox -e build_docs from within the main PlasmaPy repository directory, or

  • enter the docs directory and run make html.

Afterwards, open docs/_build/html/index.html with your browser of choice.

Do try to solve warnings in documentation when writing your code. To enforce this, The build_docs environment is set to fail on encountering any warnings via the -W flag to sphinx-build


The tox -e build_docs_no_examples command will build the documentation without executing the example notebooks. It will also pass with warnings.


  • All public classes, methods, and functions should have docstrings.

  • PlasmaPy uses the numpydoc standard for docstrings.

  • Docstrings must be raw string literals if they contain backslashes. A raw string literal is denoted by having an r immediately precede quotes or triple quotes:

I did not like unstable eigenfunctions at first, but then they
grew on me.
  • Simple private functions may need only a one-line docstring.

Narrative Documentation

  • Each subpackage must have narrative documentation describing its use.