Code Contribution Workflow


This page describes the workflow for making a contribution to PlasmaPy via a pull request after having finished the steps for Getting Ready to Contribute.

If you run into any problems, please feel free to reach out to us in our Matrix chat room or during our weekly office hours. Thank you for contributing!


Issues labeled as a good first issue are a great place to get started with contributing.

Making a code contribution

Create a new branch

  1. Open a terminal.

  2. Navigate to the PlasmaPy/ directory that contains the clone of your repository.

  3. In the terminal, run:

    git status

    If the output ends with nothing to commit, working tree clean, then proceed to the next step.


    If git status shows that any files are listed under Changes not staged for commit or Changes to be committed, then do one of the following before proceeding to the next step:

    1. Add and commit changes,

    2. Use git stash to temporarily file away the changes, or

    3. Use git reset --hard to permanently remove all changes to tracked files and return to the previous commit.

    If there are untracked files present, then you may delete the untracked files, add and commit changes, or proceed to the next step.

  4. Download the current status of PlasmaPy’s GitHub repository and your fork by running:

    git fetch --all
  5. Create and switch to a new branch by running:

    git checkout -b new-branch-name upstream/main

    where new-branch-name is changed to the name of the new branch. Here upstream is the name of the remote and main is the name of the original branch which the new branch will be based off of.


    Use descriptive branch names like update-contribution-workflow.

  6. Connect your local branch to your fork of PlasmaPy on GitHub by running:

    git push --set-upstream origin new-branch-name

Add and commit changes

Next we can go through the cycle of making changes, which is usually repeated multiple times. To get a better idea of what is being done in each step, try running git status.

  1. Edit a file and save the changes.

  2. In a terminal, navigate to the directory with the changed file and run:

    git add filename

    where filename is replaced with the name of the edited file(s). Use git add * to add all files in the directory (except for files specified in .gitignore. This step lets us line up the changes that we want to record as a snapshot in history.

  3. To commit the changes, run:

    git commit -m "<commit message>"

    where <commit message> is replaced with a descriptive commit message such as "Add gyroradius function". Committing a change is like preserving a snapshot of what each file looks like at this point in history.


    If it has been installed, pre-commit will perform automated checks and possibly auto-fixes. If pre-commit fails, then it’ll be necessary to fix any remaining problems and do the git add and git commit steps once more. Try using git diff and git diff --cached to view the changes, and and to scroll through previous commands in a terminal.

  4. To push the changes to GitHub, run:

    git push


Try using the git status command after each step to get a better idea of what is happening.


The git workflow can be thought of as the process of mailing a package.

  • git add is like packing the contents of a package into a box. This step allows you to choose which changes to include in the next commit.

  • git commit is like sealing and labeling the package, and putting it in the outgoing mail.

  • git push is like sending the package off to its destination (i.e., GitHub).

Creating a pull request

  1. Run git push to make sure that branch on GitHub is up-to-date.

  2. Go to PlasmaPy’s GitHub repository.

  3. If you recently pushed new changes, a pale yellow box will appear near the top of the screen. In that box, click Compare & pull request.


    If you did not recently push any new changes, click on New pull request and then the link saying “compare across forks.” Select PlasmaPy/PlasmaPy for “base repository” and main for “base”. Choose your fork of PlasmaPy for “head repository” and the name of the branch for “compare”. Then click on Create pull request.

  4. Add a descriptive title, such as Add a function to calculate particle gyroradii.

  5. Write a description for the pull request (PR). Describe the changes, and why they are being made. Include information that you think would be helpful for reviewers, future users, and future contributors..


    If your pull request will resolve an issue, include Closes #ISSUE-NUMBER in the pull request description, where ISSUE-NUMBER is replaced with the number of the issue.

  6. Select Create pull request.


    If the pull request isn’t ready for review, select the next to Create pull request to enable you to create a draft pull request instead.

  7. Add a changelog entry, except for minor changes like typo fixes.

At this stage, a reviewer will perform a code review, unless it has been marked as a draft pull request. Thank you for contributing!

Pulling changes from GitHub

If your branch changes on GitHub, run

git pull

to pull the changes from GitHub to your computer. If you’d like to pull the changes from the main branch, instead run

git pull upstream main

If any of the changes conflict with each other, it will be necessary to resolve the merge conflict.


After the pull request has been created, it can be updated by using git push to update the corresponding branch on GitHub.


If this is your first contribution, please add yourself to the author list in CITATION.cff (which uses Citation File Format) to make sure that you get credit for your contribution. The entry should be of the form:

- given-names: <given names>
  family-names: <family names>
  affiliation: <affiliation>
  alias: <GitHub username>

All fields are optional except alias, which is your GitHub username. We encourage contributors to sign up for an ORCID iD: a unique, persistent identifier used by researchers, authors, and open source contributors.