The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) system

The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) system is an identifier of online resources administered by CrossRef. The advantage of DOIs is that they provide a link direct to a document that will always point to the correct web address, even if the URL of the item changes (because the originator of any indexed document keeps the entry in the central DOI lookup register up to date). The adoption of the DOI system should help to eradicate annoying ‘document not found’ situations.

DOIs are now often found in search engine results, bibliographic databases, and citation lists in both printed and online research articles.

DOIs are only useful for items which are online. Now that many academic publishers are creating online versions of books, DOIs are being used to identify books and even chapters within books.

The DOI is now a registered official standard ISO 26324:2012 (May 2012).

How to use DOIs

The latest recommended is that a DOI is quoted in the form See CrossRef Quarterly (June 2011): DOI display guidelines.

Older sources will quote DOI in the format doi:[doi]. To locate an article referenced this way (to ‘resolve’ the DOI) create the web address using plus the DOI. So, to view the document referenced (in the old method) doi:10.1287/mksc., the web address would be As noted above, this is now the recommended way to reference a DOI.

That web address should always point to the document:

  • Bradlow, E.T. & Schmittlein, D.C. (2000). The little engines that could: modeling the performance of world wide web search engines. Marketing Science 19 (1), 43-62.

I shall not ever alter the DOI above, so we’ll see if the DOI continues to work into the future for this reference!

If you want to find the DOI of an item the CrossRef site has a DOI lookup page where you can enter the details of a document.

The format of the DOI

For those who are interested, the DOI is made up of two parts separated by a slash (‘/’) in the format prefix/suffix.

  • A prefix (the part before the ‘/’) is assigned to each publisher by the DOI System administrators. In the example DOI above, 10.1287 has been assigned as the DOI prefix for the publisher of Marketing Science – The Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS).
  • The suffix (the part after the ‘/’) is left up to the publisher. INFORMS has chosen an informative text string of mksc. This identifies the journal title (‘mksc’=Marketing Science), volume number (19), issue number (1), start page (43) and some other in-house article identifier (15180). This format should, preferably, be kept consistent across all of INFORMS’ journals. Another publisher might choose a different style of identification string. There is no limit on length.

The DOI System has recently been accepted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as an ISO Standard (ISO 26324) for information content identifiers. It joins other information content identifiers such as the ISBN for books (International Standard Book Number, ISO 2108), and the ISSN for journals (International Standard Serials Number, ISO 3187).


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