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Citation Help: Finding and Citing DOIs

Learn About DOIs!


DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier. 

A DOI is a number permanently assigned to a piece of intellectual property, such as a scholarly journal article, and it acts as a stable identifier that leads to the item's web page on the publisher's website.

Journals began adopting the DOI system in 2006, but it was slow to catch on. For this reason, the DOI system wouldn't become prevalent for several years. By April 2011, over 50 million DOIs had been assigned, and by April 2013, that number had grown to 85 million. As of December 2021, 275 million DOIs have been assigned.

At this point, when looking for scholarly research, particularly articles published in the last few years, most will have a DOI, but not all. Articles published prior to 2006 are unlikely to have DOIs, but it does happen. Harvard Law Review, for example, has retroactively assigned DOIs to all of its articles from the first issue that was published in 1887.



When this stem is added to the beginning of a DOI, <>, it transforms the identifier into a stable URL. 

DOI Name:10.1177/0163443711418271

If you copy/paste the DOI Name starting with 10. into a browser, you will get a results page with the article's webpage at the top of the list.

Stable URL: 

If you copy/paste the DOI with the URL stem added into an address bar, you'll go directly to the article's webpage on the publisher's website.



When incorporating a DOI into your citation (Works Cited, References, Bibliography), the stable URL is the preferred format for the various citation styles you'll encounter at USCA, such as MLA, APA, and Chicago.



Lee, Hye-Kyung. “Participatory Media Fandom: A Case Study of Anime Fansubbing.” Media, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 8, Nov. 2011, pp. 1131–47. Academic Search Complete,


Lee, H.-K. (2011). Participatory media fandom: A case study of anime fansubbing. Media, Culture & Society33(8), 1131–1147.


Lee, Hye-Kyung. 2011. “Participatory Media Fandom: A Case Study of Anime Fansubbing.” Media, Culture & Society 33 (8): 1131–47. doi:10.1177/0163443711418271.


To find an article's DOI or to see if it has one, there are several places you can check, depending on where you found the article.


--In the vast majority of cases, the DOI can be located on the PDF, usually somewhere on the first or second page. The location on the page varies depending on publication, so be sure to scan the pages thoroughly.

--Exceptions to this would be older articles that were retroactively assigned DOIs, as is the case with the Harvard Law Review. In these cases, the DOI should be located somewhere in the item record in the database. Example




--In some databases, such as Academic Search Complete (ASC) and other EBSCO databases, the DOI appears on the results page, along with the rest of the item's publication information. Example





--In most databases, if an item has a DOI, when you select a title from the results page, the DOI will appear somewhere in the item record. The location will depend on the database. For example:

  • --In EBSCO databases, like Academic Search Complete, the DOI is located at the bottom of the item record. Example
  • --Similarly, in Springer the DOI also located at the bottom of the item record, but often that means scrolling past the entire HTML full text of the article. You can also click "Cite this article" at the top of the page under the title and above the abstract. This will jump you down to the bottom of the page. Example-Cite this article,  Example-Bottom of Record
  • --In Sociological Abstracts, the DOI appears at the top of the page, along with the rest of the publication information. Example
  • --In Science Direct, the DOI appears below the title but above the Abstract. Example
  • --There are some exceptions. Because an article viewer is embedded in the item record, JSTOR does not generally display DOIs in the item record unless there's a need to do so, as with articles that were retroactively assigned DOIs, such as with the Harvard Law ReviewExample-PDF Viewer,  Example-In Item Record




--In databases where there's a citation generator, the citations produced should include the stable URL version of of the DOI, since that's usually what the various citation style guidelines require. Example-ASC,  Example-SocAbs (for Sociology, select APA 7th, Sentence Casing, DOI empty)

--Again, JSTOR is a notable exception to this, since their generated citations include a JSTOR-specific stable URL, rather than the DOI. Example

--Depending on the citation style you're using, including a database URL is unacceptable, so even if a DOI were not available, if you were using APA, you would need to remove the JSTOR URL. For MLA, however, including the JSTOR URL in the absence of a DOI is correct.




--Google Scholar doesn't display DOIs, either in results lists or in generated citations. If you locate an article in Google Scholar, depending on how you access the article, you will either need to look at the first couple pages of the PDF for the DOI, and/or you will need to scan the item's page (website) or the item record (database). Example




If you've checked all these places and haven't found a DOI, then the article you're looking at probably doesn't have one.

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