Franklin Style Manual Online

2.3.3. Listing periodical articles from databases and periodical websites

What distinguishes an “online article” from other Web pages (discussed in Section 2.3.4) is the presumption that the source is not intended to be updated, but is rather written as a short, “fixed” piece of writing, like articles appearing in print periodicals. In fact, articles appearing in library databases or on periodical websites are often digitized versions of articles also appearing in print. The publisher of the online article may make minor corrections, but online articles, once published, are generally expected to remain unchanged. Consequently, most of the information for online articles is the same as that listed for printed articles, especially when the corresponding print details are listed with an online version. There are, however, key differences discussed below.

What information to record:

There are many places to find articles online: library databases, periodical websites, and a variety of third‐party sites. Wherever you locate an article, look for the standard details for print articles, including periodical name, volume and issue numbering, and page listings where the article also appears in print (see Section 2.3.2.). But also pay attention to special online publication details, including the URLs for the periodical’s website and the article itself. Either of these Web addresses may be necessary for the retrieval statement at the end of the reference‐list entry, which is an added requirement at the end of listings for online sources (see above). One other detail is important to look for. The latest APA guidelines ask for Digital Object Identifiers, which, when available, replace all other online retrieval information in the listing.

Note:The following article on the APA Style Blog sponsored by the American Psychological Assocation provides a chart to help you determine which retrieval information to provide: "DOI and URL Flowchart."

Locating Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs):

A DOI is “a unique alpha‐numeric string assigned . . . to identify content and provide a persistent link to its location on the Internet” (APA, 2010, p. 189). Since a DOI is unique and permanent for each official electronic version of a source, it is preferred by the APA to URL references, which can frequently change. Unfortunately, not all sources have been assigned DOIs. Here are three strategies for locating a source’s DOI (if it exists):

  1. Look at the research database’s bibliographic information for the article. Often, the DOI can be found on the database search or results page where you first located the article.
  2. Look at the electronic version of the article itself. The DOI is often located on the first page of an article, near the copyright notice or in the footer of the first page. To the right, you will find an image of the first page of a PDF version of an article with a DOI.
  3. Use a DOI crossreferencing site. If you cannot locate the DOI on the first page of the article, go to This site and others like it allow you to search for DOIs based on other details you should also have about the source, including title, periodical, and author.

Using DOIs in the referencelist entry.

If you successfully locate the DOI for a source, place the identifier (preceded by doi:) at the end of the entry (no period after); no other retrieval information is needed when DOIs are listed.



Perry, B. (2010). Exploring academic misconduct: Some insights into student behaviour. Active Learning in Higher Education, 11(2), 97-108. doi: 10.1177 /146978741036565

Dehaene, S., Pegado, F., Braga, L. W., Ventura, P., Filho, G. N., Jobert, A., . . . Cohen, L. (2010). How learning to read changes the cortical networks for vision and language. Science, 330, 1359-1364. doi: 10.1126/science.1194140

Whitmeyer, J. M. (2000). Power through appointment. Social Science Research, 29, 535-555. doi:10.1006/ssre.2000.0680

Retrieval statements when no DOI is available:

In the next section, you will learn more about how to cite a wide variety of online sources,, which often include a date of access in their retrieval statements. As with all elements in the basic reference‐list templates, however, there are key variations. For online articles, first of all, no retrieval date is listed, because the source is assumed to remain unchanged. Online articles also have special requirements for listing the URL for the source.

When no DOI is available, ask these questions to determine which URL to provide:

  • Did you locate the article on the periodical’s website? Your retrieval statement should at the very least include the URL for the periodical’s home page. However, if the article is reliably retrieved on the periodical site through a URL linking directly to it, you should provide this fuller URL. Do not provide full URLs, though, when access to the article requires a login or when the only direct URL is excessively long. Some sites will actually provide a “permanent link” suitable for citation.
  • Did you locate the article in a research database? Never list the full, direct URL for articles accessed through research databases, since those Web addresses are often cryptic, overly long, and session specific. The latest APA guidelines ask you instead to do a standard Web search (e.g., in Google) for the periodical’s website, listing the URL for the homepage of the periodical’s website. Once you locate the periodical’s website, you can follow the guidelines in the previous paragraph.



Ashe, D. D., & McCutcheon, L. E. (2001). Shyness, loneliness, and attitude toward celebrities. Current Research in Social Psychology, 6(9), 124–133. Retrieved from

Campanelli, M. (2000, August). Spanning the globe: “Localizing” your Web site. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from

Dimofte, C. V., Johansson, J. K., & Ronkainen, I. A. (2008). Spanning the globe. Marketing Management, 17(5), 40-43. Retrieved from /publications/marketingmanagementjournal.html

Swanson, M., & Paul-Johnson, E. (2010, July 6). Spanning the globe. The Press Enterprise. Retrieved from

The expectation to locate the periodical’s website may seem strange for articles from databases, but there is some reason behind it. Databases often change their offerings, so later readers can more reliably use a periodical’s own online archives than the full‐text offerings in a third‐party database. One can understand the APA’s concern about reliable access over time, once one considers that the APA guidelines above are primarily framed for use by academic publishers offering books and papers intended to serve as lasting records of research.

For class assignments, however, other guidelines may be more appropriate.

In particular, instructors may ask you to list the database name (e.g., LexisNexis Academic, Academic Search Premiere, Business Source Complete, etc.) instead of the periodical’s URL, to indicate where you actually found the article within library research databases. Instructors, then, can easily locate an article themselves for reference. (See the Harley example below.) As with other modifications to APA’s official recommendations, follow the expectations set by your instructor.



Harley, B. (1995, December). Spanning the globe. Database Magazine, 18(6), 52-57. Retrieved from Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition database.

Last Updated: 08/16/2012 14:37