Single responsibility principle

Principle

A class should have one, and only one, reason to change.

The more responsibilities a class has, the more reasons it has to change. Every time you make a change, you're risking breaking other parts of the class which you didn't even intend to change.

This principle goes hand in hand with "high cohesion" principle:

tip

A highly cohesive class is one that only comprise responsibilities which belong together. A class ideally has a single responsibility.

The single responsibility principle is applicable at many scales: from variables1 and methods2 to classes to software component and services3. For example, our design for MyBooksApp conformed to the MVC (Model–View–Controller) software design pattern. Following this pattern, we built a system with clear responsibilities; the classes in the "model" represented application's state information. The view contained the elements that facilitate user interaction with the app. The controller managed the data flow into model and updated the view whenever data changed.

tip

One of the benefits of using MVC is that it follows the S principle in SOLID.

A simple approach to check whether your design conforms to this principle is to ask, for each class, "what is the responsibility of this class?" If your answer includes the word "and," you’re most likely breaking the single responsibility principle. If a class is doing too many different things, create new classes to separate out the responsibilities.

Let's look at a rudimentary example: suppose you are building a Course Assistant Management System and this is a partial UML of your CourseAssistant class:

Among the methods of CourseAssistant is the printTimeSheetReport(). It could be argued this method (behavior) is a responsibility that can be extracted out of CourseAssistant into a separate class:

Now the CourseAssistant is only responsible to represent (hold essential data about) a course assistant and TimeSheetReport will contain report-related stuff. If you change the reporting format for instance, you will not have to change anything in CourseAssistant.

tip

What is the relationship between cohesion and single responsibility principle (SRP)? Cohesion in a sense is just another name for SRP. If you are writing highly cohesive software, that means you are obeying SRP. Refer to our discussion on "high cohesion" principle for more examples.


  1. A variable should mean one thing, and should mean it all of the time; it should not carry different value from a different domain at different times.
  2. A method/function/procedure should do one thing (and be good at it!). This is also known as "Curly's Law: Do One Thing".
  3. The software development technique known as microservice architecture can be seen as an application of the Single Responsibility principle at large.