Heads-Up Scholars – APA Reference Requirements Have Changed!
I have been working as a freelance writer and editor since earning an MA in Writing/Publishing in 2004. Over the past six years, I have edited a lot of academic papers for professors around the world who are publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
If I do say so myself, I am pretty good at what I do! As far as I know, all of my professors have published their papers after I have edited them. And almost every new client becomes a regular.
So you can imagine my dismay when a paper I had edited for a long-time client (a professor in Taiwan) was rejected by his journal! They informed him that the references didn’t adhere to the correct APA style. At first, this mystified me because if there’s one thing I know by now, it’s how to convert references into APA style-and I knew that I had carefully done this for my professor’s paper.
The rejection letter from the journal explained that the references were missing DOI numbers-as required by APA’s 6th edition. I had never heard of of a DOI before, so I headed to Wikipedia for an explanation. Then I threw my APA Manual (5th edition) into recycling and ran out to buy the 6th edition. It turns out that they have made some major changes in this edition in regard to electronic sources.
Here is what I learned.
Keeping Track of Electronic Sources
The challenge today is that more and more journals are only published online-not in hard copy. Articles-even journals-come and go on the Web, which means that a link that worked today may not work tomorrow. Even when there is a hard copy, the electronic versions are sometimes updated when the hard copies are not.
Because scholarship depends on being able to locate the exact source cited by an author, this has become a big problem.
What Is a DOI?
To resolve the issue, a group of international publishers got together and created the digital object identifier (DOI) system, which assigns a unique alphanumeric string to each article. An article with a DOI enters a clearinghouse, so it can always be found on the Web. The DOI also serves as an embedded link in electronic references, so you can access the article simply by clicking on it.
After learning all of this, I spent five hours (!) researching each of my client’s references to see if a DOI had been assigned to it. I did find a few-especially among the more recent listings-and added them to his paper. (I also found a few discrepancies in my client’s references-such as years and article titles that weren’t quite accurate-so the exercise was actually worthwhile for him, too).
Clearly, more and more journals are going to require the DOI since it resolves a major issue in scholarship. Therefore, if you are a student, now is the time to understand what the DOI is. If you are a professor who specializes in a certain area of scholarship-and you use the same references over and over in your papers-it would be a good idea to research your references and add any DOIs to them that you can find.
Whether you are a student or a professor, be sure to add the DOIs to all of your references going forward.