Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Using a DOI® Link


Students discussing DOI Links in Bibliography

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?

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

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’. DOI definition.

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. doi.org 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 assigned approximately 175 million name prefixes so far, so you’ll definitely use these identifiers as you conduct your research.


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 ( http ), then the domain name ( hmhco.com ) ex: http://www.fakeexample.com; however, a secured website contains a ‘s‘ as in https .

By the way,  http stands for HyperText Transport Protocol; https is 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.

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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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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