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Topic Primer: Find and use DOI

DOI, or “doi” in some styles, means digital object identifier, that is, a digital identifier of an object (called a referent) of any type (digital, physical, or abstract). In publishing, a “DOI” or more correctly, a “DOI name” is considered a “persistent handle” or a unique permanent access link to a journal or a magazine article in an electronic archive. DOI names help manage the location of specific information. transactions, and metadata for that information on the Internet, While information about an object may change, the DOI name for that object remains always the same,

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has maintained the specifications for DOI (see ), following its original inception in 1998 by the International DOI Foundation, with ISO interest and revisions in 2004, 2006, and 2010. DOI®, a registered trademark, represents that all DOI names participate in a system as defined by the International Standard (ISO 26324:2012(en), Information and documentation — Digital object identifier system).

Information on the standard (which must be purchased) is available in the DOI® Handbook, available free online at . The basic “DOI name” is composed of three parts: the prefix element, the separator, and the suffix element. To designate the information as a DOI name, usually DOI or doi followed by a colon and no space precedes the prefix, which comprises the characters (from Unicode, see ) assigned to the DOI registrant. The separator consists of a forward slash (/), no space following. The suffix follows as a set of the multiple characters (again Unicode) uniquely assigned to identify the article. A typical DOI name, therefore, appears in this form: doi:10.xxxx/#######… The structure of this DOI name is called its syntax. DOI names are case sensitive, but no defined limit exists for the length of either the prefix or the suffix.

These Internet sites are helpful to find DOI names for specific articles:

  • International DOI website search at
    Used to check the accuracy of the DOI obtained from CrossRef; the DOI checked does not include the URL marker “https:// “, e.g., doi:10.xxxx/######
  • CrossRef DOI website search at
    Click on Metadata Search
    Insert the name of the article in quotation marks (“…”) AND (the Boolean)

    Last name of first author

    CrossRef DOI names must include the full URL, including https:// because it takes you to the publisher’s website.

  • Search by article title and author in Google, other browsers: returns a stable URL or organizational DOI name for older articles. The form of the DOI returned includes the URL, usually with the “” prefix, e.g.,

Check your disciplinary style guide or publication manual or journal guidelines on how the DOI name should be cited. Typically, it is added as the last item in the reference citation format with no period following. Note that the DOI with the URL http:// or https:// will insert a hyperlink into the manuscript while the DOI without the URL needs to be cut and pasted into a browser to locate the article online.

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