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September 21, 2009

A DOI Primer

Chelsea blog

by Chelsea Lee

As Anne noted last Thursday, this week we'll be featuring a series of posts on DOIs and URLs. Today's post is an introduction to DOIs.

What is a DOI?

A DOI, or digital object identifier, is like a social security number for a document online. It’s a unique and permanent identifier that will take you straight to a document no matter where it’s located on the Internet. You can read more about DOIs on pp. 188–192 of the 6th edition of the Publication Manual as well as in our FAQ on DOIs. They figure prominently in the 6th edition reference citation style.

How do I get from a DOI to an article?

You can Google a DOI to find an article, although you may still have to sift through search results. To go straight to the source, you can also consult a DOI resolver, such as the one supplied by CrossRef.org. Copy and paste the alphanumeric DOI string (e.g., 10.1037/a0015859) into the DOI resolver and click submit. Or, you can append the DOI string to http://dx.doi.org/ (as in http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0015859) and copy that straight into your browser’s address bar.

When do I include DOIs in my references?

If your reference has a DOI, include that DOI.

How do I find DOIs?

In best publishing practices, the DOI should be listed prominently on the first page of an article, whether in print or online. If you’re working online, copy and paste it into your reference list, to avoid transcription errors. Do not alter the alphanumeric DOI string in any way.

To search for DOIs, use CrossRef. The free DOI lookup searches for DOIs using information such as article title, authors, and publisher information. Or cut and paste your entire reference list into the Simple Text Query form and CrossRef will return all available DOIs at once.

What do I do about DOIs if I read something in print?

If you do not find DOIs for the printed materials that you read, then you do not have to include anything further. You’re done! (Note that many books that exist only in print form are not likely to have DOIs at this time.) When you’ve read something in print form and no DOI exists, simply follow the reference format for print materials.

What's next?

Check back to the blog tomorrow, when I will be sharing a flowchart I have created that explains when to include DOIs or URLs in references, including references retrieved from a subscription database.

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