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DOI, URL, database name and accession number, or permalink? What on earth do I put in for my APA reference for things from a database?

Last Updated: Apr 21, 2014  |  4621 Views

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Citations to articles, chapters, books, and other electronic information from library databases should include electronic access information. APA outlines the guidelines below, but there are caveats you should know about, like using permanent links to the articles instead, so read beyond the guidelines:

  1. DOI
    • First and foremost, APA says, if there is a doi (digital object identifier) number, then include that. 
    • Begin the DOI number with (according to the latest publication of the APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources).
    • Do NOT include a URL, a permalink, the name of the database, or the URL of the database or of the publisher of the source if you have a DOI.
  2. Publisher URL
    • If there is no DOI number, APA prefers that the next thing to do is provide the web page address (URL) of the source's publisher (see the Publication Manual, section 6.31 on Electronic Sources and Locator Information).
      • This does not mean the URL of the database or the database's publisher, with the only exception being if the database publisher is the only publisher of the source.
      • This means you will usually have to Google the name of the publisher and provide the URL of its homepage.
      • If you find the publisher URL, do not include any other links or the name of the database.
  3. URL of database entry page
    • If you have no DOI and no publisher homepage, provide the URL for the entry page to the database.
    • Source: section 6.32 of the Publication Manual, page 189-192.

See our APA Guide for examples:


Many colleges, universities, and schools have modified the above information because APA's  guidelines are intended to be used by those publishing for a national/international audience; in those cases, not everyone has access to the databases used in the research. In the student/instructor scenario, however, all readers of a paper will have access to the school-provided databases, thus the guidelines above are sometimes disregarded for the following:

  1. Permanent URL to the source in the database
  2. Database Name and Accession Number
    • In the case of student papers, these may be preferred because both instructor and student maintain easy, direct, and immediate access to the source(s) in question.
    • For non-student papers that will really be published, this method is not allowed.

Rasmussen allows the above exception! Our NoodleBib citation software neatly allows you to choose any of the above guidelines.

So, what do YOU do for YOUR classes at Rasmussen?

  1. Ask your instructor which method they prefer. If they have no preference, pick the method you prefer.
  2. Remember the big picture...APA's goal is to give the reader enough information about the source in the reference so that they can readily and easily find it, get it, and read it. Whatever you do, have you done that?
  3. You can contact your librarian (but we might ask you to ask your instructor)

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