The APA 6th Edition of the Publication Guide ‘recommends’ that we include DOI (Digital Object Identifiers) in our reference list.

Now first of all, what are DOIs?  Well, they’re actually pretty nifty. According to the DOI website:

“The Digital Object Identifier (DOI®) System is for identifying content objects in the digital environment. DOI® names are assigned to any entity for use on digital networks. They are used to provide current information, including where they (or information about them) can be found on the Internet. Information about a digital object may change over time, including where to find it, but its DOI name will not change.”

As to what ‘recommends’ means – right now you certainly won’t get a manuscript rejected for not including DOIs, but that may well be the way the tide is turning .  Reference management software distributors have made the APA 6th style available, and as long as you have the DOI for each reference you cite in your library, these styles will tend to list them at the end of each reference, e.g.

Yonelinas, A. P. (1994). Receiver-operating characteristics in recognition memory: Evidence for a dual-process model. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 20, 1341-1354. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.20.6.1341

The problem is finding a DOI for each reference you cite.  Although this won’t be as much of an issue if you’re building your reference lists from scratch now, it’s still one that will surface from time to time as it seems that older articles are having DOIs rolled out to them too – that means that an article you cite now might not yet have a DOI, but when you get round to writing your next paper, it will have been assigned one, and it will be ‘recommended’ that you duly note this in your Reference section.  Due to this post-hoc rolling out of DOIs, you can’t simply rely on finding the original paper and checking it’s title-page DOI listing either.  So how should you go about updating their reference libraries?

If you don’t have a newfangled reference management tool that does this for you automatically, there’s another pretty good solution.  Crossref have made a free DOI lookup facility available.  Using it, you can find DOIs one-by-one.  However, an even better method is nestled away at the bottom of the page.  If you click on the simple text query link, you’ll be taken to a page where you can simply paste your existing Reference section into a text box, submit it for analysis, and receive back your original text, with DOIs added.

Individual DOI lookup

Reference list DOI lookup

Try it – it’ll make the transition to compulsory DOI use (which will probably come in the APA 7th) that little bit less painful.

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