Answered By: Matt Stevons
Last Updated: Oct 01, 2019     Views: 75

Not all scholarly journals provide a DOI and most other documents do not have a DOI (like most books or newspaper articles).  Because all students and faculty here at PG have access to the Library, we recommend treating publications as if they are print copies when dealing with articles and other documents without a DOI.


An example of citing a journal article without a DOI would be:

Haddow, G., & Joseph, J. (2010). Loans, logins, and lasting the course: Academic library use and student retention. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 41(4), 233-244.

Note that no URL or other information is included at the end and it just follows normal rules for citing a journal article. We recommend you follow the same for books and book chapters as well and treat them as print editions. In practice, we believe this is what most people publishing do.  Anyone reading your work, whether a fellow student or your professor, can safely assume the full text was obtained via the university’s library and the citation information should be complete enough that anybody can find it using the information given.  


History and Context:

If you only needed a recommendation on what to do, stop reading.  The following is for those interested in why we made this recommendation.

According to page 199 of the sixth edition to the American Psychological Association’s Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, “If there is no DOI assigned and the reference was retrieved online, give the URL of the journal home page” (2009).  

This means that if an article were found in a database from companies such as EBSCO, ProQuest, Westlaw, Gale, and HeinOnline that the Library licenses for your use, you would need to go to Google and search for the journal an article is from, find the journal’s website, note their homepage URL, and add that to the end of a citation in order to finish it.  You can see an example of this from APA's Academic Writer by clicking here (link).

However, according to a post in the comments section of an APA Style Blog post (the APA’s official blog it uses to post clarifications and answer questions about APA style), there is more to it:

The guiding principle should be to use what you think would be most likely to lead the reader to the document in question. If your primary audience is your community, then a URL to which that community has access would make sense. If you are looking to publish a journal article, then thinking about a broader readership may lead to a different solution (Jackson, 2009).

This gives some new context to the rule and points out that the rule was created with someone publishing their work in an academic journal in mind.  It wasn’t their intent to make citing materials from online databases overly burdensome and communities (like our university) can decide to ignore or modify the rule.  


Additionally, a citation analysis of the references lists in a random selection of recently published articles in APA journals conducted by Library staff revealed no instances of this rule being followed in any of the articles reviewed - meaning that it’s a rather obscure rule in practice and not consistently observed in published materials.


American Psychological Association. (2009).Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association(6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Jackson, P. (2009, September 24). What to use: The full document URL or home page URL? [Blog post]. Retrieved from






  • Journal Article Reference

    Learn how to format references for journal articles, including those published in print, online, or retrieved from research databases.

    Academic Writer

    © 2016 American Psychological Association.

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