How to Find a Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Some citation styles, like that of the Tyndale Bulletin, require you to use Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).1 According to,

The digital object identifier [DOI®] system provides an infrastructure for persistent unique identification of objects of any type.2

So, DOIs serve much the same function as do ISBNs for books. But any type of material can have a DOI, whether that material is a book, an article, or something else.

For styles that include them, DOIs provide one more way to ensure you’re pointing your readers to exactly the material you’re intending to cite.

How to Look Up DOIs without Zotero

You can, of course, include a DOI when you cite a source. But if you don’t routinely capture DOIs, you might have a whole list of sources that are missing DOIs.

You could look up the DOI for each sources one by one. But you can also look them up all in one batch by using Crossref’s DOI lookup tool.3

Just copy your bibliography, and paste it into the lookup tool’s search box. After you click Submit, you’ll be shown your bibliography and any DOIs that the lookup tool found for the individual sources in it. You can then add these DOIs to your citations or to your bibliography manager’s DOI field.

Looking up DOIs with a bulk text search is a great way to significantly shrink the labor that goes into finding them. The downside of this approach is that you still need to manually add the DOIs, one by one, to your citations or your bibliography manager.

How to Look Up DOIs with Zotero

If you use Zotero, however, you can condense the process of finding and saving DOIs still further. To do so, you’ll just need

  • the Zotero DOI Manager plugin and possibly
  • the Reference Extractor tool.

Before moving ahead to the first step of this process, though, go ahead and install the Zotero DOI Manager plugin if you don’t have it already.

1. Use Reference Extractor to collect the sources you’ve cited.

Whether you’ll find Reference Extractor helpful will depend on how you manage your Zotero database as you cite sources. For instance, if you cite a source in a project and then immediately put that source into a project-specific folder, you can consider skipping Reference Extractor.

That said, Reference Extractor is very easy to use. And running through it means you can base your DOI search on exactly and only the sources you cite in a given document. You won’t run the risk of having a Zotero folder that should contain what you cite in a given project but that isn’t actually current because you forgot to add or remove a given source.

So, to use Reference Extractor to identify all the sources you cite in a given document,

  1. Create a folder for those sources in Zotero. You can delete this when you’re done, but it’ll be a good place to keep everything while you’re adding DOI information.
  2. Open Reference Extractor.
  3. Choose your project file (DOCX, ODT) as the input file.
  4. Click the button to “Select in Zotero.”
  5. Click the link to “Select x item(s) for user library y.” You’ll then be sent to Zotero where you’ll see at least one of the items from your document already selected. The other items will be selected also, but you might not see them if your library is large.
  6. Click and drag the item you can see into the folder you created in step 1 above.

2. Use Zotero’s DOI Manager to find and attach available DOIs.

Once you have your project’s sources in their own folder,

  1. Open that folder.
  2. Select all the items in that folder.
  3. Right click your selection, point to Manage DOIs, and then choose to get either short or long DOIs, depending on which you need.4

Zotero will then search for the relevant DOIs. If it finds any, Zotero will automatically save the DOIs to their respective resource records—no manual entry required. 🙂


DOIs are becoming increasingly common parts of citations. So, as you cite new sources, it may be prudent to ensure you have their DOIs saved. But even if you skip this step, Zotero especially makes it quite easy to add DOIs on the fly so you can get back to writing.

  1. Header image provided by Markus Spiske

  2. Introduction,” in DOI Handbook, 2019, §1.5. 

  3. For pointing out this tool, I’m grateful to the “Tyndale Bulletin Style Guide” (Tyndale House, 2021), 12n12. 

  4. SBL and Tyndale Bulletin style seem to prefer the long form. 

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