CIN Plus Section Editor: Linda Q. Thede, PhD, RN-BC

DOI? Why? How to Questions and Answers Laura Marie Schwarz, DNP, RN, CNE School of Nursing, Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN. DOI: 10.1097/CIN.0000000000000047

Key Points: • DOIs are newer innovative technology. • DOIs make locating and tracking a publication quick and easy. • The DOI system recently became an international standard.

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE Many in the realm of nursing, from nursing students and nursing faculty to practitioners and scholars, may be unfamiliar with the “hows and whys” of DOIs. The aims of this article are to assist the reader with answers to some of these questions and to demonstrate the great value of using DOIs to locate and track publications.

WHAT IS A ''DOI''? The acronym DOI stands for digital object identifier. A DOI is a case-sensitive string of characters that provides an embedded permanent link (permalink or hyperlink) to the Internet location of an object such as a publication,

or information about the object to which the DOI is linked. It is often a clickable link and functions much the same way as a URL for a Web site; however, it is permanently assigned and will not change or be deleted over time the way a URL might. This makes the DOI a reliable way to access and track an object such as a publication even when the Internet location of the object is changed. A DOI identifies the exact object on the Internet rather than just the location of where the object is stored on the Internet. They are assigned by the publisher to a publication such as a journal article, and start with 10. No DOI is assigned to more than one publication or other object, and conversely, ideally no object will be assigned to more than one DOI.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT DOIs? The DOI is a way for readers to quickly and easily locate a publication such as a journal article or book on the Internet simply by clicking on an already hyperlinked DOI or by readily turning the DOI into a hyperlink. Most journal articles published in the last 10 years do have an assigned DOI, and most are published in a digital version. DOIs are a recent technological advance that makes locating and tracking publications more efficient and reliable and expedites scholarly research.

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE DOI? The DOI system originated in 1997 as a way to provide “an infrastructure for persistent unique identification of objects of any type” and was a joint initiative of three publishing industry trade associations.1 The International DOI Foundation (IDF) was also created in 1997 to help develop and manage the DOI system, with the first applications being used in 2000. The DOI system was published as an International Standard by the International

CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing • February 2014 Copyright © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.


FIGURE 1. Example of a DOI located on an article’s first page.

Organization for Standardization in 2012.1 As of January 2013, 64,000,000 DOI names have been registered through registration agencies.2

HOW DO I LOCATE A JOURNAL ARTICLE'S DOI? A journal article’s DOI is usually listed somewhere in the article, often on the first page of the article, as Figure 1 demonstrates. The DOI will frequently be located near the article’s copyright notice on the first page. If a DOI is not listed in the publication, CrossRef, a nonprofit linking service of Publishers International Linking Association, Incorporated,3 is a DOI registration agency that provides an easy way to look up DOIs for free using their free DOI lookup Web page; Figure 2 shows an example of using just the first author’s surname and the title of the article in CrossRef to find the article shown in Figure 1. In Figure 2, we can see both the search as well as the result that was generated. Additionally, some databases list DOIs with citations in search results. Many

reference lists will also include the DOI or hyperlink of the DOI for the articles cited within it.

WHAT IF THE DOI IS NOT HYPERLINKED AND I WOULD LIKE TO LOCATE AN ARTICLE USING ITS DOI? You can change the DOI string into a URL by adding to the string right before the 10. For example, the following DOI, 10.1097/NXN.0b013e318 25b374a, can be made into a hyperlink like this: http:// (click on the hyperlink or copy and paste into your Web browser’s address bar to see what happens). You can also locate the article by using IDF’s Resolve DOI Name service found on their home Web page,, to locate a publication, such as is shown in Figure 3. An important caveat to mention is that the DOI will not get you directly to a journal article if a subscription to the journal is required. In this instance, you can check to see if your library has

FIGURE 2. Using CrosRef to locate a journal article and assigned DOI.


CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing • February 2014 Copyright © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

ily locate the publications when you need to. If you are a teacher or student in an online course, you should use DOIs for journal articles in the online forums and discussions rather than URLs.

CONCLUSION FIGURE 3. Locating an article with IDF’s Resolve Name service.

a full-text subscription to the journal in which the article is published, and if not, then you are often able to use interlibrary loan to get access to the article. Most often there will be a way to get access to a single article without having to pay for a full subscription of the journal if you do not wish to, such as paying for just the article you want.

DO I NEED TO CITE A DOI IN MY REFERENCE LIST? That depends on the style of writing you are using. Check with the publication manual you are using for your writing and/or journal you are writing for to verify whether you should cite DOIs. Regardless of whether DOIs are required or not, you will find it best to keep a list of DOIs for any publication you are citing, so that you are able to eas-

DOIs are a newer innovative technology that is invaluable for locating publications such as journal articles and books. Now that you understand the importance of DOIs, and how to locate and use them, you will likely find them indispensable in your scholarly research and writing. The author has disclosed that she has no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

REFERENCES 1. International DOI Foundation (IDF). DOI handbook. Accessed October 3, 2013. 2. International DOI Foundation (IDF). DOI news. http: // Accessed October 3, 2013. 3. CrossRef. The formation of CrossRef: A short history. 2010. 10Years.pdf. Accessed October 1, 2013.

CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing • February 2014 Copyright © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.


DOI? Why? How to questions and answers.

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