Library staff often learn as much from our patrons – i.e. you – as they teach. My husband, who is a PhD student in engineering at another local institution of higher learning, said to me, “Why don’t you do a post on your blog about DOIs?” I had never heard of a DOI. So I had to look it up, of course.
What? A DOI – Digital Object Identifier – is a number attached to a piece of online content (Wikipedia has a much more technical definition). In practical terms, it is a unique number attached to a full-text online article, much in the same way every book has a unique ISBN.
Why? Well, suppose your article was published in the journal ‘Nitpicky Things About Oceanography’ by Small Academic Press and appeared on their web site. Six years later, Small Academic Press was purchased by Big International Conglomerate. Obviously they are going to change the (previously stable) url of your journal article. But you can find the new online location of the article easily by putting the DOI into a DOI resolver or the global handle resolver. DOIs can also be easily hotlinked, and some article databases are starting to do this. DOIs are starting to be included as an integral part of bibliographic citations in some fields – instead of searching for the journal title to find an article, just enter the DOI into a resolver and there you are.
Who? DOIs are the result of cooperation between commercial publishers and non-commercial organizations (like libraries, universities, and academic presses). The main site explaining all this is at doi.org, but you may find the information available at CrossRef.org, which is focused on scholarly research applications of DOIs, to be more useful.
Written by Phoebe Acheson