How to Format URLs and DOIs in APA

In the digital age of scholarly research, including Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) in your APA citations is important. These alphanumeric identifiers serve as gateways to accessing and citing online content accurately. Understanding when and how to incorporate them can greatly enhance the clarity and reliability of your citations.

  • A DOI is an alphanumeric sequence made up of letters and numbers. It helps identify a piece of writing and gives a link to where it is on the internet. You often see these codes in lists of sources and in databases. 
  • A URL shows exactly where something is on the internet. It usually appears in the top bar of a web browser. It’s best if URLs in lists of sources link straight to the content being cited.


  • When presenting DOIs and URLs, begin with “http:” or “https:” to create hyperlinks. To avoid redundancy, do not include phrases like “Retrieved from” before the DOI or URL.
  • Follow the current standards set by the International DOI Foundation, formatting DOIs as “”. The string “” is a way of presenting a DOI as a link, and “xxxxx” refers to the DOI number.
  • Do not add a period after the DOI or URL because this may interfere with link functionality.

Verify Accessibility: Before finalizing your references, double-check the URLs and DOIs to ensure they lead to the correct online content. Verifying accessibility guarantees that readers can easily access the sources cited in your work, thereby strengthening the reliability of your research.

Link Relevance: When including URLs in your APA references, ensure they directly link to the cited material. Avoid linking to homepage or generic pages, as this may lead to confusion for readers trying to locate the specific content you referenced.

Prioritize the DOI: When referencing a source that possesses both a DOI and a URL, it’s advisable to prioritize the inclusion of the DOI.


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Tomas Elliott (Ph.D.)

Tomas Elliott is an assistant Professor of English at Northeastern University London. His research specialisms include the history of theatre and film, European modernism, world literature, film adaptation, transmedia studies and citation practices. He read English and French Literature at Trinity College, Oxford, before completing a PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania.

Learn how to cite in APA