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Reference List: Electronic Source References

Basics of Citing Electronic Sources

Most of the sources Walden students cite will be electronic because you primarily use an online library. Electronic source reference entries often have additional components (like electronic retrieval information):

Author. (Publication date). Title of document. Publishing information or electronic retrieval information.

See the subpages for detailed information about how to cite each kind of electronic source.

DOI, Other URL, or No Electronic Retrieval Information?

A DOI number, or a "digital object identifier," is a unique alphanumeric string that identifies content and provides a persistent link to its location on the internet. A DOI is a number that is specific to a certain piece and identifies it among other digital sources. Journal articles will commonly have a DOI associated with that specific article. Depending on where an article can be found, you may need to include a URL in place of a DOI. Guidelines for including a DOI or a URL can be found in the APA 7, Section 9.34. 

Here are the general guidelines:

  • Include a DOI for all works that have a DOI, regardless if you use the online version or the print version.
  • If a print work does not have a DOI, do not include any DOI or URL in the reference.
  • If a work has both a DOI and a URL, include only the DOI.
  • If an online work has a URL but no DOI, include the URL in the reference as follows:
    • For works without DOIs from websites (not included in databases), provide a URL in the reference.
    • For works without DOIs from academic databases, do not include a URL or database information in the reference because these works are widely available. The reference should be the same as the reference for a print version of the work.
  • Other alphanumeric identifiers such as the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) are not included in APA style references.

Use this click-through flowchart to help you determine whether to use a DOI, another URL, or no electronic retrieval information for your journal article source.

 

Do you see a DOI on the article?

Often, publishers include the number in the header or footer of the article. It may appear in a slightly different format, starting with an http://dx.doi.org, https://doi.org, DOI:, or some other way of identifying the number as a DOI. Many DOI numbers start with 10.

 

Yes      No

Formatting DOIs and URLs

  • In APA 7, present both DOIs and URLs as hyperlinks (i.e., beginning with “https://” or “http://”).
  • Use the default display settings in Microsoft Word for hyperlinks (blue font, underlined, and hyperlinked). It is also acceptable to present the DOI or URL in plain black text that is not underlined. Be consistent in how you format the hyperlinks throughout your reference list.
  • Links should be live if the work is to be published or read online.
  • As recommended by APA 7 and the International DOI Foundation, format your DOI as follows: https://doi.org/xxxx
  • Do not add a period after the DOI or URL because it may interfere with link functionality
  • Also see our Quick Answer FAQ, "Can I use the DOI format provided by library databases?"

Knowledge Check: Electronic Source References