The Writing Center

APA: Using a DOI in Your Reference List


You have probably had difficulty at some time locating information about electronic resources:  they can change or even disappear, and that makes citing them in your reference list challenging.  Various publishers have started using what is called a DOI number that offers readers a persistent link to the source on the Internet.  Below is a guide on how to cite with a DOI number.

What Is a DOI?

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a string of numbers and letters that uniquely identify a source.  They can be found in a library entry; here is an example:

DOI:  10.1111/j.1467-873X.2008.00424.x

How Do You Use a DOI in a Reference List?

You use a DOI number instead of the URL.  You do not need to list the database you used to find the source either.  Here is an example:

Prabhu, V., Sutton, C., & Sauser, W.  (2008).  Creativity and certain personality
          personality traits:  Understanding the mediating effect of intrinsic

          motivation.  Creativity Research Journal, 20(1), 53-66.  doi:


(Note:  The APA manual uses lower case in the reference list but all caps in the explanations.)

How a Reader Uses a DOI Number

Your professor can check your reference by clicking the DOI when on the CSU library webpages.

Use the URL if There Is No DOI Number

When there is no DOI number, use the URL.  Here is an example:

Bunce, A.  (1995, September 9).  Beowulf in the boardroom:  Executives ponder

          poetry.  Christian Science Monitor.  Retrieved from


APA Electronic Reference Style Guide

The Library has a copy and so does the Writing Center.  You can download a copy for $11.95 from:
The Purdue Online Writing Center web site also has a fantastic APA electronic references section that includes DOIs:    

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