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Answered By: Nicole Montgomery
Last Updated: Mar 31, 2020     Views: 27

The letters DOI stand for Digital Object Identifier, which is an alphanumeric string of characters constructed  to identify uniquely and in a persisting way some digital content. A good analogy would be the Social Security number here in the USA, which is assigned to a person at birth and continues to identify that person uniquely until death.

Important information and clarification about DOIs below:

What does a DOI look like?

A DOI is a string of characters. The portions of the string are "significant", in that the various segments convey meaning. A typical DOI looks like this 10.1000/182

Here are some examples of the various styles:

          DOI 10.1016/j.leukres.2008.10.006

          DOI 10.1038/sj.neo.7900253

          DOI 10.1111/j.1745-7270.2008.00433.x


          10. 1109/16.8842

Do all articles have a DOI?

No, at least not yet. The emphasis by publishers has been on assigning DOI strings to new publications, so it's possible that older articles will not have DOI tagging. And "older" doesn't have to be very old. Some publishers are retro-tagging older material very aggressively, while others are not. If a publisher has digitized large portions of journal backfiles, the odds are good that DOIs were added as part of the process. Still, there is no statement that does not have exceptions, so it's better to check in each case.

Related, a DOI is assigned by one of the members of the International DOI Foundation (IDF). The IDF is a consortium of companies and agencies which have a strong professional interest in organizing and preserving access to digital content of all types. Membership in the IDF is restricted to those bodies that are in a position to fulfill certain contract obligations and pay membership fees. The fees defer the costs of maintaining the system. The member organizations serve as Registering Agencies, or RAs, and assign DOI tags to individual items, following the IDF's strict protocols. Publishers are one obvious type of organization comprising the IDF. CrossRef, for example, is a consortium of over 3,000 publishers.

How do I find an article's DOI?

As we mentioned above, remember that not all articles have an assigned DOI. But if there is a DOI, you will find it in a couple of different places depending on where you found it.


In EBSCOhost, the DOI appears in the result list.

Article citation in search results in EBSCOhost database


It also appears in the full record view.

Screenshot of an article record in EBSCOhost


In ProQuest, the DOI appears on the record view:


Article Record in a ProQuest database


If there is no DOI there, look at the first page of the PDF of the article to confirm as the DOI will usually be listed there if one has been assigned. If you haven't found a DOI in any of those locations, the article likely has not been assigned and does not have a DOI.


Can I use a DOI to get to the full text of the article?

Not always and not consistently. DOIs will direct you to the publisher's site for the journal article. However, EKU Libraries doesn't always have full text access via the publisher's site. Sometimes our full text access is through an aggregated database like EBSCO's CINAHL Complete. And to further complicate things, sometimes we do not have access to full text at all and users will need to request the article through our Library Express service. So clicking on a DOI link will not always take you to the full text version.

If you need to provide a link to the full text article for your instructor, we recommend you do not rely on the DOI.

We suggest the following options:

  • Include the permalinks for the article full text, even if the permalink is not a DOI link. See this example:
    • Burridge, L., & Foster, M. (2019). Compassion in rehabilitation nurses who provide direct patient care: principles to pragmatics. Journal of the Australasian Rehabilitation Nurses’ Association (JARNA), 22(1), 7–15. fulltext here:

  • Download the article PDF and submit to the instructor as proof of full text

If you have the DOI link and need to navigate to the article yourself, you will need to go to the library's homepage because the DOI link will NOT take you to the full text if you are off-campus. I good way to do this is to use Google Scholar through the library's homepage.


APA style citations and DOIs

The Publication Manual of the APA, 7th edition, states that the digital object identifier (DOI) should be included in the reference, if a DOI has been assigned. If no DOI is given, and you retrieved the article online, include the home page URL for the journal, magazine or newsletter in the reference. Use this format: "Retrieved from http://www.xxxxxxx.

For more information, with examples, see the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), APA Formatting and Style Guide, Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications).

Students should always use guidelines on citing and citations provided by their department and are strongly encouraged to contact their instructor if they have any questions.

EBSCOhost and DOIs

EBSCOhost databases are automatically putting our proxy prefix as part of the DOI as part of their citation service. This can be confusing so be sure to watch out for this. Always be sure to check any database generated citations against your APA manual, the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), your department's guidelines, or other trusted source.

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