I'm just getting started with software development and open source and I'm really excited about contributing to a real world project.

But, I don't understand how to find bugs in projects as most blogs and videos tell me to do. On GitHub, what is the most straight forward way of finding something that I can fix? Is it using the Issue tracker? But it always seems like people are already discussing about a particular Issue and are already working on it which discourages me from taking it up as I won't make it faster than them anyways.

One obvious answer might be to work on enhancements to the projects but given that I'm just getting started, suggesting improvements is something not really I can do right away without any experience.

4 Answers 4


The most useful open source contributions come from people who actually use the project they are contributing to. So I'd suggest to you first, to use free software as often as possible, and possibly to develop your own projects.

Whenever you find something that you think you be fixed or improved in an application or a library that you use, then it may be time to look into making a contribution.

At this point, you need to find the source code and the contribution model (if you're lucky it's on GitHub and contributions go through pull requests).

If you feel the code is easy enough to understand, you might have a go at making a patch and submitting it. If not, you might just open an issue / a bug report. This is already by itself a useful contribution.


The most straightforward way to search for issues of a project is to access the issues tab and use the filters available in the documentation. Using as an example the Pegasus retro gaming frontend cause it has just a little amount of issues opened, if you access the Issues tab and type is:issue is:open label:feature you will find all issues that are opened, and are improvements to this project. In this case, label is something that is configured by repo owners, and each project can have it's own labels. If you remove is:open from your search, the number of issues will increase. Access the repo and do your homework ;)

But this is just basic. You will need to dig through documentation an see the potential of the filters.

If you are a developer and you know a little about REST, you can retrieve information from github's api with some scripts or even using curl

And if you browse github a little, you will find interesting repos like this one that have a python script to export issues into csv file.

  • nwildner it's very nice of you to answer his question, but it's not at all open source related. Let's keep it clean.
    – ossx
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 13:22
  • Yeah. I somehow knew that this question was more of related to github than opensource projects. I'm new on this community, and still cannot cast close votes :P
    – user8416
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:04
  • 3
    @florinx Finding bugs on public issue trackers is closely linked to the FLOSS community. You can apply it to non-FLOSS work, but the same is true for question about pull requests, issue tracker best practices, etc. There are questions that apply purely to FLOSS (largely licensing questions) but there are also questions that have sufficient overlap with FLOSS that we allow them. Where to draw that line is a balancing act, but I think it's an overstatement to say this is not at all open source related.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:10
  • 1
    @florinx To put it another way: look at questions here and ask "Would this question be helpful for a public project that accepts user contributions, but is under a license that is restricted to educational use?" If the answer to that question is ever "yes," then the domain of the question is not strictly limited to FLOSS, but it may have overwhelming utility for the FLOSS community. The community must decide whether or not this question is in bounds, but I think questions about "how do I get into open source?" question -- especially when scoped to a specific subtask -- are a good fit.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:17
  • This question seems to be placed at the thin line bewteen OpenSource and StackOverflow contents.
    – user8416
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:27

Going over code is a decent way to teach yourself and I commend you for wanting to contribute. First though, if you are just really excited to get out there and contribute, perhaps the bugs you should be on the lookout for are simply grammatical and spelling errors from within the code and in the project documentation (I see these issues quite often even in the biggest and most well-known projects).

Also, there are requests in some projects stating how new users might be able to contribute. Thoroughly review the readme.md of any project that interests you (and check for spelling and grammatical errors at the same time!).

Third, Github helps you with ideas on how to find projects to contribute, and where to look.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 8:55

To contribute to an open source project, a good way to start is by helping out with the documentation. The documentation is usually lacking completeness, or is outdated.

For example, try to build or install the project, then report back any inconsistencies or problems. You will likely also be able to identify some possible improvements.

Personally, I wanted to contribute to the https://github.com/kiwix project, and have dedicated a week of my spare time. In the end I did not write a single line of code, but some of my documentation / feature proposals have helped the project to improve.

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