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DOI Help: Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)

Introduction

When citing electronic resources, the APA manual (sixth edition) dictates the inclusion of a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), when available. When an item does not have a DOI, the URL for the journal homepage can be used instead. The goal of this guide is to help you find the DOI or journal homepage for your reference citations. Specifically, this guide will cover:

  • what DOIs are
  • how to find DOIs
  • how to locate a journal homepage

 

This guide will not cover how to correctly cite articles using APA style. For help with citation questions, please contact the Writing Center or refer to the Writing Center's resources on their website:

Digital object identifier (DOI)

With the advent of so much digital content, Digital Object Identifier names, commonly shortened to DOIs, were invented to give each item a unique, persistent identifier. While they are primarily assigned to academic journal articles and research reports, you may see DOIs for governmental reports, data sets, books, conference proceedings, and media as some publishers choose to have DOIs assigned to these items.

DOIs are created and maintained by the International DOI FoundationCrossref is a registration agency for the International DOI Foundation and assigns DOIs to scholarly research publications. These publications include journal articles, along with some books and conference proceedings.

Note: Currently, APA style only requires DOIs to be included in journal article reference citations. Even if a book or other publication has a DOI, you do not need to include it in the reference citation.

 

All DOIs start with the number 10 followed by a period. This is an example:

10.1111/dome.12082

 

There are a couple of important things to know about DOIs.

  • Not every article has a DOI.
  • DOIs have nothing to do with the peer-review status of an article.
    • Both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles can have DOIs.
    • If you'd like to learn more about peer review, please see our guide: Peer Review Guide.

Find a DOI

The first place to look for a DOI is the article itself. Many publishers will include the DOI somewhere on the first page of the article. Here are a few examples:

Header:

Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 71, No. 3, 2015, pp. 441-452
doi: 10.1111/josi.12122

Footer:

DOI: 10.111/dome.12082
Digest of Middle East Student - Volume 25, Number 1 - Pages 36-51
© 2016 Policy Studies Organization. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 

The second place to look for a DOI is the Crossref website. As the organization that assigns DOIs to research articles, if Crossref doesn't have a DOI for an article, you can safely assume that the article doesn't have one. 

Here is how you can search Crossref's website to see if an article has a DOI:

  1. Go to the Crossref.org website.
  2. Click on the Search Metadata tab above the search box.


     
  3. Enter the title of the article in the Title, Author, DOI, etc search box. For example:

    "Subjective well-being in times of social change: Congruence of control strategies and perceived control"

    Note: Putting the title in quotation marks tells the site to search for that exact title and can increase the accuracy of your search.


     
  4. Press the Enter key to run your search.
  5. Look through the list of results for your article. The DOI will be listed at the bottom of the entry. For this example it is:

    10.1080/00207594.2012.744839

 

Note: The actual DOI begins with 10. To learn more about what form of the DOI to use in a reference citation, please see this Quick Answer:

 

Searches in Crossref always bring back results, even if the article you are looking for isn't there. If you don't see your article in the first page of results, here are a few things to try.

  • Add the author's last name to your search.
    • For example: "Storytelling for social change" AND Winskell
  • Use the Year limiter in the left column to limit results to only the year in which your item was published.

 

 

If you still don't find the article you are looking for in Crossref, you can safely assume that it does not have a DOI.

Find a journal homepage

When an article does not have a DOI, you'll need to cite the article using the URL of the journal homepage.

Please note: The purpose of including the URL of the journal homepage is not to direct the reader to the individual article that you are citing. Links to individual articles may change, but the URL of the journal homepage should remain fairly constant.

 

Here is an example of how you can look up the journal homepage for the journal, Educational Researcher.

  1. Go to Google, Bing, or another internet search engine.
  2. Enter the title of the journal in the search box.

    "Educational Researcher" journal

    Notes: Putting the title of the journal in quotation marks tells the search engine to search for that exact title, and not just those words anywhere.If the title of the journal is not unique or doesn't include the word journal, adding the word journal to your search may help.
     
  3. Look through the results and see if you can identify the journal homepage. In this example, the journal came up as the first result.

    Screenshot of Google search result for Educational Researcher from SAGE journal.
     
  4. To get the URL for the journal homepage, click on the link to the journal in the search results, then copy the URL from the address bar of your internet browser. In this example, the URL is:

http://journals.sagepub.com/home/edr/

 

Notes:

  • You can tell that you have found a journal homepage if you see some, or all, of these items:
    • the scope and purpose of the journal
    • how to submit an article to be published by the journal
    • the editorial process
    • the journal's ISSN
  • Often times, the URL for the journal homepage will be fairly short.
  • Many publishers publish multiple journals. You may have to navigate through a publisher's website to find the page for the specific journal you need.
  • If you are still unable to find a journal homepage, please contact the Library using our Ask a Librarian service.