– Advantage of creating a generic repository vs. specific repository for each object?

The Question :

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We are developing an ASP.NET MVC application, and are now building the repository/service classes. I’m wondering if there are any major advantages to creating a generic IRepository interface that all repositories implement, vs. each Repository having its own unique interface and set of methods.

For example: a generic IRepository interface might look like (taken from this answer):

public interface IRepository : IDisposable
    T[] GetAll<T>();
    T[] GetAll<T>(Expression<Func<T, bool>> filter);
    T GetSingle<T>(Expression<Func<T, bool>> filter);
    T GetSingle<T>(Expression<Func<T, bool>> filter, List<Expression<Func<T, object>>> subSelectors);
    void Delete<T>(T entity);
    void Add<T>(T entity);
    int SaveChanges();
    DbTransaction BeginTransaction();

Each Repository would implement this interface, for example:

  • CustomerRepository:IRepository
  • ProductRepository:IRepository
  • etc.

The alternate that we’ve followed in prior projects would be:

public interface IInvoiceRepository : IDisposable
    EntityCollection<InvoiceEntity> GetAllInvoices(int accountId);
    EntityCollection<InvoiceEntity> GetAllInvoices(DateTime theDate);
    InvoiceEntity GetSingleInvoice(int id, bool doFetchRelated);
    InvoiceEntity GetSingleInvoice(DateTime invoiceDate, int accountId); //unique
    InvoiceEntity CreateInvoice();
    InvoiceLineEntity CreateInvoiceLine();
    void SaveChanges(InvoiceEntity); //handles inserts or updates
    void DeleteInvoice(InvoiceEntity);
    void DeleteInvoiceLine(InvoiceLineEntity);

In the second case, the expressions (LINQ or otherwise) would be entirely contained in the Repository implementation, whoever is implementing the service just needs to know which repository function to call.

I guess I don’t see the advantage of writing all the expression syntax in the service class and passing to the repository. Wouldn’t this mean easy-to-messup LINQ code is being duplicated in many cases?

For example, in our old invoicing system, we call

InvoiceRepository.GetSingleInvoice(DateTime invoiceDate, int accountId)

from a few different services (Customer, Invoice, Account, etc). That seems much cleaner than writing the following in multiple places:

rep.GetSingle(x => x.AccountId = someId &amp;&amp; x.InvoiceDate = someDate.Date);

The only disadvantage I see to using the specific approach is that we could end up with many permutations of Get* functions, but this still seems preferable to pushing the expression logic up into the Service classes.

What am I missing?

The Question Comments :
  • Using generic repositories with full ORMs looks useless. I have discussed this in details here.

The Answer 1

171 people think this answer is useful

This is an issue as old as the Repository pattern itself. The recent introduction of LINQ’s IQueryable, a uniform representation of a query, has caused a lot of discussion about this very topic.

I prefer specific repositories myself, after having worked very hard to build a generic repository framework. No matter what clever mechanism I tried, I always ended up at the same problem: a repository is a part of the domain being modeled, and that domain is not generic. Not every entity can be deleted, not every entity can be added, not every entity has a repository. Queries vary wildly; the repository API becomes as unique as the entity itself.

A pattern I often use is to have specific repository interfaces, but a base class for the implementations. For example, using LINQ to SQL, you could do:

public abstract class Repository<TEntity>
    private DataContext _dataContext;

    protected Repository(DataContext dataContext)
        _dataContext = dataContext;

    protected IQueryable<TEntity> Query
        get { return _dataContext.GetTable<TEntity>(); }

    protected void InsertOnCommit(TEntity entity)

    protected void DeleteOnCommit(TEntity entity)

Replace DataContext with your unit-of-work of choice. An example implementation might be:

public interface IUserRepository
    User GetById(int id);

    IQueryable<User> GetLockedOutUsers();

    void Insert(User user);

public class UserRepository : Repository<User>, IUserRepository
    public UserRepository(DataContext dataContext) : base(dataContext)

    public User GetById(int id)
        return Query.Where(user => user.Id == id).SingleOrDefault();

    public IQueryable<User> GetLockedOutUsers()
        return Query.Where(user => user.IsLockedOut);

    public void Insert(User user)

Notice the public API of the repository does not allow users to be deleted. Also, exposing IQueryable is a whole other can of worms – there are as many opinions as belly buttons on that topic.

The Answer 2

27 people think this answer is useful

I actually disagree slightly with Bryan’s post. I think he’s right, that ultimately everything is very unique and so on. But at the same time, most of that comes out as you design, and I find that getting a generic repository up and using it while developing my model, I can get an app up very quickly, then refactor to greater specificity as I find the need to do so.

So, in cases like that, I have often created a generic IRepository that has the full CRUD stack, and that lets me get quickly to playing with the API and letting folks play w/ the UI and do integration & user acceptance testing in parallel. Then, as I find I need specific queries on the repo, etc, I start replacing that dependency w/ the specific one if needed and going from there. One underlying impl. is easy to create and use (and possibly hook to an in-memory db or static objects or mocked objects or whatever).

That said, what I have started doing lately is breaking up the behavior. So, if you do interfaces for IDataFetcher, IDataUpdater, IDataInserter, and IDataDeleter (for example) you can mix-and-match to define your requirements through the interface and then have implementations that take care of some or all of them, and I can still inject the does-it-all implementation to use while I’m building the app out.


The Answer 3

13 people think this answer is useful

I prefer specific repositories which derives from generic repository (or list of generic repositories to specify exact behavior) with overridable method signatures.

The Answer 4

5 people think this answer is useful

Have a generic repository that is wrapped by a specific repository. That way you can control the public interface but still have the advantage of code-reuse that comes from have a generic repository.

The Answer 5

3 people think this answer is useful

public class UserRepository : Repository, IUserRepository

Shouldn’t you inject IUserRepository to avoid exposing the interface. As people have said, you may not need the full CRUD stack etc.

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