What is a DOI?


When writing references to scientific articles, you should include the article’s DOI in the reference, but what is it, and how does a DOI differ from a regular link? We’ll try to sort it all out in this blog post.

A DOI is a persistent link – a link that is supposed to exist forever. Common links on the Internet can be broken and changed, for example if the publisher where the article is published changes their web address. But a persistent link should last despite such, or other, changes.

DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier and is an alphanumeric character string (ie a code containing both letters and numbers) that can be given to electronic documents or objects. An article’s DOI can often be found at the beginning of the article, or in the web page (post) where all information about the article can be found.

Not all articles have a DOI; this is something that the publishers themselves decide if they want to put their articles on, and they must then pay to get a DOI.

Each DOI is thus unique, so with the help of a DOI you will always find a way back to the object in question. Although the DOI might not take you all the way to the actual document. For example, I an article is published behind a paywall, you will at least come to a page with information about the document in question.

However, you cannot simply take the DOI code and paste it into the browser’s address bar, as it is not a URL. A DOI must always be resolved, and it is done using a DOI resolver.

Alternative if you have a DOI you can enter it in a web browser, but you have to put http://doi.org/ in front of the code itself, ie http://doi.org/10.1177/1355819614534836.

So to summarize, one can say that a DOI is a neat way to always find your way back to an article, but you need a tool to be able to use it in a good way.

Text: Katharina Nordling