What is a DOI?

DOI stands for ‘digital object identifier’. It is an alphanumeric string that links to a piece of academic writing such as a journal article or ebook.

A DOI works in a similar way to a URL, but is guaranteed to always link to the intellectual property to which it is assigned. Because a DOI never changes, academic citation styles recommend the use of DOIs over URLs.

Example of a citation with DOI
Fernández-Ayuso, M. Rodríguez-Rodríguez & J. Benavente (2018) Assessment of the hydrological status of Doñana dune ponds: a natural World Heritage Site under threat, Hydrological Sciences Journal, DOI: 10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449

You may see DOIs formatted in different ways:

  • DOI: 10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449
  • https://doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449
  • https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449
  • On JSTOR only: https://www.jstor.org/stable/90023056

How to find a DOI

The DOI will be available and clearly visible when you open a journal article on a database. Most journal databases with the automatic citation function will also provide the DOI in the citation produced.

Examples of where to find DOIs


*Note that JSTOR uses a different format, but their “stable URL” functions as a DOI. All other journals listed in Scribbr’s list of credible sources use DOIs.

What to do when you cannot find the DOI

If you cannot find the DOI for a journal article, you can also check Crossref, where you simply paste information on the article in the “Search Metadata” box to find the DOI. If the DOI does not exist here, the article most likely does not have one and you should use the standard URL.

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DOI in citations

You may need to use DOIs when citing journal articles or certain books. Simply follow the standard rules for citing that type of source in your citation style and place the DOI in the space where the URL would go.

APA citation with DOI:

G, M. O., Grigsby, J., Poulter, B., Van Derveer, J. W., Giron, S. G., Jerome, L., … Doblin, R. (2018). 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized phase 2 controlled trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 32(12), 1295–1307. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881118806297.

In APA, you may use the following DOI formats:

  • https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881118806297 (recommended)
  • http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881118806297
  • doi:10.1177/0269881118806297.

You can also use Scribbr’s free APA citation machine to automatically cite journal articles by just entering the DOI. All relevant information such as the names of the author(s), publication title and journal are automatically retrieved.

MLA citation with DOI:

G, Marcela Ot’alora, et al. “3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Treatment of Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Phase 2 Controlled Trial.” Journal of Psychopharmacology, vol. 32, no. 12, Dec. 2018, pp. 1295–1307, doi:10.1177/0269881118806297.

In MLA format, the use of the format doi:10.1177/0269881118806297 is preferred.

Chicago citation with DOI:

Nair, Lakshmi S. and Cato T. Laurencin. “Biodegradable polymers as biomaterials.” Progress in polymer science 32, no. 8-9 (2007): 762-798. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.progpolymsci.2007.05.017.

In Chicago, the use of format https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881118806297 is preferred.

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Courtney Gahan

Courtney has a Bachelor in Communication and a Master in Editing and Publishing. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2013, and joined the Scribbr team as an editor in June 2017. She loves helping students and academics all over the world improve their writing (and learning about their research while doing so!).

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