What Type of Data Can XPath Operators Return?


Scott Campbell

What Type of Data Can XPath Operators Return?

When working with XPath, it is essential to understand the different types of data that XPath operators can return. XPath operators are used to navigate through an XML document and extract specific information. Depending on the type of operator used, the result can vary.

Numeric Values

XPath operators can return numeric values, which include integers and floating-point numbers. These values are useful when performing calculations or comparisons within XPath expressions.

String Values

Another type of data that XPath operators can return is string values. String values consist of a sequence of characters and are enclosed within quotation marks. These values are commonly used when searching for specific text patterns or filtering nodes based on their content.

Boolean Values

XPath operators can also return boolean values, which are either true or false. Boolean values are often used in conditional expressions to determine whether a certain condition is met or not.

Node Sets

The most common type of data returned by XPath operators is a node set. A node set is a collection of nodes that match a particular selection criteria specified in the XPath expression. Nodes can be elements, attributes, text nodes, or even processing instructions.

An example:

To illustrate this concept further, let’s consider the following XML document:

  <book category="fiction">
    <title>Harry Potter</title>
    <author>J.K. Rowling</author>
  <book category="non-fiction">
    <title>The Lean Startup</title>
    <author>Eric Ries</author>

Using XPath, we can retrieve a node set containing all the book elements:


This XPath expression will return two nodes, each representing a book element in the XML document.


In conclusion, XPath operators can return various types of data, including numeric values, string values, boolean values, and node sets. Understanding these different data types is essential when constructing XPath expressions to navigate through XML documents effectively.

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