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When Do I use a DOI?

When using online journal articles you may have noticed that they sometimes include a DOI number, and wondered as to its significance. Here are some Q & A about DOI’s and what they are used for.

Q.: What does “DOI��? stand for?
A: DOI stands for Digial Object Identifier. This is essentially a persistent identification number for digital content.

Q: What does “persistent identification number for digital content��? mean in plain English?
A: Essentially what this means for academic researchers is that an electronic document (say, an online journal article) is given a unique ID number that will enable anyone to find the document on the web.

Q: Why not just use a URL or web address?
A: Sometimes the location of a document changes on the web – the URL changes, for example, or the publisher of the journal changes. Even if the location or other information about the article (metadata) changes, the DOI remains the same and the article can still be located through that number.

Q: How do I use the DOI?
A: One easy way is to enter the number into Google. Google will recognize the number and will take you right to the material (or information on where to find it).

Q: What if you need a paid online subscription to access the journal?
A: The DOI will not provide you with the full text, but will provide you with the publisher’s site or other citation to the article. You will still have to check Minerva http://minerva.albany.edu to see if we subscribe to the journal.

Q: Do I have to include the DOI in my bibliography or list of references?
A: APA format stipulates that one include the DOI in a citation when it is available. For assistance with this, Ask A Librarian. Here is an example:

Goddard, J. and Barrett, S. (2008) Guidance, policy and practice and the health needs of young people leaving care. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 30(1), 31 – 47. doi: 10.1080/09649060802124760.

Q: Are DOI’s used just for journal articles?
A: No, DOI’s are used for a wide range of electronic documents and content. For more information, see http://www.doi.org/.