I am doing my masters in energy systems engineering. Whenever I cite a scientific paper that I found online, I include the link where I got it and date accessed in the citation, as well as the DOI, and publisher.

I was discussing this with a classmate, since he just cites the article without including a link, just the journal name, and volume, as well as providing the DOI.

I was wondering what was the correct way to cite an online scientific paper. We are often asked to cite in IEEE format.

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    context? what kinds of papers? who is the audience? what is the function of writing? Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 5:44
  • 1
    Just included it in the title!
    – STOI
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 11:47
  • 3
    "Masters Class" is still vague, but does suggest an answer of "ask the instructor". What discipline is this?
    – Teepeemm
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 22:23
  • 2
    What is your field? What style guide do you use?
    – shoover
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 23:26
  • Just did some more updates: discipline, and citation style. Thanks for pointing out!
    – STOI
    Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 15:27

6 Answers 6


The doi already doubles as a link to the article, and any good bibliography style will make that clickable. Moreover, the doi comes with a commitment that it will work in perpetuity, while the url on the publisher website could change. As such, there is no real benefit in including a link to the publisher website if you already provide the doi (a link to the arXiv could be a different story).

Giving the date you accessed it seems pointless, too. Since journal articles are supposed to be versions of record, and modified only via errata after publication, the situation is fundamentally different from citing a more fluid source such as Wikipedia.

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    This applies to "official" postings by journals ("versions of record"). The OP didn't specify that.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 20:39
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    @Buffy They mention journal name and doi, so there seems to be a version of record. Whether they've obtained that via the official website or say scihub doesnt matter.
    – Arno
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 20:52

"Correct" citation style is determined by the journal or publisher. That may or may not include a link.

Whenever it's allowed, I recommend including the link and the last accessed date, as a courtesy to your reader.

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    'Whenever it's allowed' may be an "interesting" condition to implement. In my BibTeX database, as well as the standard field url, I have quite a few occurrences of the custom fields urlbehindpaywall and urlforcopyofquestionablelegality, which don't get printed in the standard bibliographic styles. Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 20:16
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    Including a "date accessed" for a journal article seems superfluous. Journal articles aren't edited after they are published, you should never get a different version of the article depending on the date you access it.
    – kaya3
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 0:45

Having read and graded thousands of student papers, the biggest citation mistakes I see involve citing the site of download instead of the actual data of the publication. When the students list Library of Science instead of the journal name, it tells me they don't understand why they're writing it down at all.

I couldn't care less about whether a link is provided or not, so long as the citation is correct. If the citations are not correct, students will feel it clearly in the grade.

  • Also, it is totally useless to add the "last accessed date" for a journal paper.
    – Cedric H.
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 7:14

Echoing other answers and points: yes, good to give a DOI, since it supposedly lasts forever. On another hand, for immediate access, giving a URL (qualified by the access date) is useful and informative.

I am not a fan of official rules about bibliographic references (since it's really not clear to me that everything can be fitted usefully into existing rules), but I can understand the impulse to make some universally interoperable version. My joke-quip about this and other things is "well, let's just wait until things stop changing ..." :)


There are lots of references style for writing an article. In many of them, authors mention article link, DOI, PMCID, PMID. These styles are chosen by the scientific journal manager or editors. In medical journals are common to use AMA style for writing and Vancouver style for reference section.

For example in Vancouver style in some journals, you need to write journal abbreviation name instead of full journal name and also mention DOI and article link, at the end of the each reference while another journal need PubMed codes (PMID and PMCID).

In conclusion, journal authors guideline is where you should read and It says the use of links are mandatory or not.


As I stumble a lot over this questions: Use a bibliography tool and add everything you have as metadata, then let your lecturer decide on the citation style and just use that. Perhaps make an example export and ask if it suffices.

The wonderful thing about bibliography tools is that it is one line of configuration or one selection in a pull down to change to the defined needs.

Of course a DOI is an URI and thus extremely helpful, but what information should be put where (e.g. in-text, in-footnote, in-bibliography) is a highly artificial choice. And a DOI as being unique could replace all other then redundant metadata, like URL, date-accessed or others.

There is no and there never will be a consent about how to style citations (as you can already see in all answers and comments). So just let others decide and use a software configuration which circumvents these problems.

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