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Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs): DOIs

About Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)


A DOI, or Digital Object Identifier, is a unique string of numbers and letters that permanently identifies an article, or other work, and links to it on the web. In short, a DOI is a permanent or persistent identifier. 

  • DOIs identify with the content rather than a location.  If the item changes location, the publisher is responsible for pointing the DOI to the new location.  If this updating does not take place, you can end up with a dead DOI.


When you locate an article, the DOIs may be formatted as active or inactive.

An active DOI looks like a hyperlink.

An inactive DOI omits https// and often starts with 10 (especially if assigned pre-2011).


Simply add before the DOI number to make it active. 


Have a DOI in the inactive format?  Visit and paste in the DOI number to locate the item associated with the DOI.


Not all articles, or other information sources, have a DOI. See an example in JSTOR.


  • The DOI Handbook provide more information, including the history, of the DOI system.

graphic of DOI logo


Questions & Answers

#1 Where can I locate a journal articles's DOI?

Scan the web page or source. If one is assigned, it is mostly likely near the top of the web page where you located the article or may be on the article itself.

article from Taylor & Francis with DOI at top

#2 Where can I find out if the article, book chapter etc. I want to use in my bibliography has a DOI?

Use CrossRef. Select the "Search Metadata"tab and paste in the title of your article, book chapter etc.

sample search in CrossRef interface

#3 If an information source has a DOI, is it automatically considered a scholarly source?

No. Though scholarly sources, especially peer-reviewed journal articles, are likely to have a DOI, non-scholarly sources may be assigned a DOI.  For example, this data set has been assigned a DOI.

citation of a data set with a DOI

#4 Should I use the active or inactive form of a DOI when I want to cite it?

It depends. Consult your citation style guide (APA, MLA, CSE etc.) to determine what the style requires.  Though not all citations style want DOIs formatted in the same way, many styles seem to be moving toward using the active DOI format.