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What is a DOI and how do I use them in citations?

A DOI, or Digital Object Identifier, is a string of numbers, letters and symbols used to permanently identify an article or document and link to it on the web. A DOI will help your reader easily locate a document from your citation. Think of it like a Social Security number for the article you’re citing — it will always refer to that article, and only that one.

 Where can I find the DOI?

  • In most recently published articles, the DOI will be printed with the article itself, usually on the first page somewhere, or in the header or footer.
  • If the DOI isn’t on the article, look it up on the website CrossRef.org. This free website allows you to paste all or part of a reference to find the corresponding DOI.

How can I use a DOI to find the article it refers to?

  • The recommended format for DOIs since 2011 is an active link, so if your DOI starts with http://, simply paste it into your web browser. This will usually lead you to a journal publisher’s page for the article.
  • Pre-2011, DOIs started with the number 10 (and some are still formatted this way). You can turn any DOI into a URL by adding http://dx.doi.org/ before the DOI. For example, http://dx.doi.org/10.3352/jeehp.2013.10.3
  • If you’re off campus when you do this, you’ll need to use this URL prefix in front of the DOI to gain access to UIC’s full text journal subscriptions: http://proxy.cc.uic.edu/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/ or, for example, http://proxy.cc.uic.edu/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.3352/jeehp.2013.10.3

Psst! It’s not a bad idea to check the DOIs in your references list this way to make sure they lead to the correct articles!

How do I cite a journal article with a DOI in…

APA format?

Some DOIs start with 10.xxxx, and some are active links (http://dx.doi.org/xxxx…). In APA format, you will write the DOI however it is presented in the article. It goes at the end of your reference.

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or http://dx.doi.org/10.0000/0000

If your article has no DOI whatsoever, which happens more frequently with older articles, in APA format you will provide the URL for the journal homepage and the words “Retrieved from.” Note that this is the journal homepage, not the webpage where you found that specific article.

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number. Retrieved from http://www.journalhomepage.com/full/url/

See these and other examples in the Purdue OWL: APA Formatting and Style Guide.

AMA/JAMA format?

When using a DOI in an AMA citation, do not include an “Accessed” date or a URL. Put the DOI at the end of your citation, prefaced with “doi:

1. Author AA, Author BB. Title of article. Name of Jrnl. Year;vol(issue):inclusive pages. doi:10.0000000/000000000000

MLA format?

As of the newest (8th) edition, MLA encourages students to include the DOI at the end of the citation for an online scholarly journal article. If no DOI exists, use the URL.

Author LastName, FirstName, and FirstName LastName. "Article Title." Journal Name, vol. #, no. #, date, pp. ##-##. Name of Database, doi: 10.0000/000000000. 

It’s a good idea to check with your instructor whether they want you to include the date you accessed the article, although this is not required by MLA.

How Do I...?