Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

What Is DOI?

You’re gathering your resources together when suddenly you notice that several of your online journal articles aren’t linked to a web address (URL). What is that mysterious notation at the end of the citation? You’re used to seeing a link to an online article in this way:



Then all of the sudden, this DOI® number shows up: DOI:

What does this mean?

Citation generator

The Difference Between DOI  and URL

Feeling confused yet? Solve this mystery easily by understanding the difference between a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and the DOI® system.

Have you tried to click on a web address only to find out the web page has disappeared or moved? Then, you’ll understand the frustration of tracking down cited sources on the World Wide Web. Fortunately, the International DOI® Foundation created a way to maintain stability for digital objects using their DOI® system.

The DOI System

Students discussing DOI Links in Bibliography

Created by the International DOI Foundation in 1998, the DOI® system assigns a permanent location to a digital object. The object itself can be changed but its location remains the same. DOI® stands for “digital object identifier.”

Assigning a unique persistent identifier for a published digital object makes it easier to find. Check out the official DOI.ORG® website for some interesting facts on this system. Simply put, the DOI® follows the digital object even if the web page address changes.

Who Uses DOI?

Publications pay to obtain a DOI® Publishers of scientific journals, for example, pay to provide stable links to their research articles. Most scholarly journals use the DOI® system so if a source contains one, provide it in your citation. The International DOI Foundation has assigned approximately 175 million name prefixes to date, so you’ll definitely use these identifiers as you conduct your research.

URL Web Addresses

You hear this term all the time, but do you know what it means?  A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the website address.

This format is common: access protocol (e.g., http), then the domain name (e.g., example.com), followed by the specific page name (e.g., article.html). For example, this can come together as http://www.example.com/article.html. A secured website contains a “s” in the protocol, as in https.

Note that http stands for HyperText Transport Protocol, and https stands for HyperText Transport Protocol Secured.

Each style, such as APA, MLA and Chicago, treats the placement and format of URLs and DOIs differently. For example, Chicago style requires you to add https://doi.org before each DOI.

Reference Lists and Bibliographies

Now, the mystery of that DOI® notation is cleared up and you can create your reference lists and bibliographies easily.

DOI®, DOI.ORG® and shortDOI® are registered trademarks of the International DOI® Foundation (IDF).

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