Context: I'm writing a dissertation in Computational Social Science using the Kluwer bibliographic style. My question isn't specific to this style and applies generally to dissertations in computer science, sociology, economics, and management.

Q: Should I include URL (DOI or other) in bibliographic entries for all journal or conference articles, in addition to normal full citation information?

There is no such requirement or guidelines from my University or Department. I've done numerous web searches, but I've never found any general guidelines on this.

Pro: All of my committee members and most of my readers now read articles on-line rather than through printed journals or proceedings. All the URLs will have hyperlinks, so when they are reading the PDF of my dissertation, they can click on the hyperlink that will open a browser window to the article. In addition, my dissertation will have internal hyperlinks from citations to bibliography entries and from key terms to glossary entries. Finally, I use the Zotero reference manager, and I can usually acquire the URL as part of the "one click" import process.

Con: Adding URLs for every journal/conference article adds visual clutter to the bibliography. When the URLs are not DOI, they may not be valid for a long time. It will add some work to test and correct URLs that don't meet the basic criteria of usability, consistency, and stability.

4 Answers 4


Adding links is extremely useful for people who actually want to lookup the references.

DOI serve both as a link and as an identifier, so adding it is a good idea in general. (A similar thing holds for arXivID.)

Both for DOI and arXivID it should be visible as doi:1234/56781 and arXiv:1401.9999, with an underlying link so it is clickable.

With other links, I consider them only if both DOI and arXivID are absent. It may be less stable, but still it is better than nothing.

If you are really concerned with the visual appeal, you can make the title (or journal reference) clickable without spelling out the complete link. But personally I think that for references usability is more important than visuals (at least, it is what I do for my PhD thesis).

To get you some taste, it looks more or less as (the citation style is temporary, just look at the style of links):

enter image description here

Another approach (from a paper) would be to hide link addresses as in:

enter image description here

See also:


Adding DOIs and URLs to your bib references is really a good idea!

If you are really concerned on the visual clutter, you can "hide" hrefs under the author/title/journal line. In this case, the references are not visible in print version (which is probably not terribly bad, since only a few people will bother to type DOIs from paper back to a browser search line). In the pdf version, however, one can click on the bib reference line to access the online document (which is really something people appreciate). If you hide hrefs under the titles, make sure your PDF readers do understand this (give them a clue with a footnote or so).

It is really a good idea to use DOIs as much as possible and avoid using potentially unstable URLs. However, if the document is not easy to find (e.g. not among first 3 references in the Google scholar), I would probably go with the URL to help navigate the reader.


With my copy editor hat on, I'm certainly for including useful things in the biblio, especially DOI and online repo (arXiv and stuff) links are very useful, since more information in bibliography prevents typos and mistakes from being significant.

With my thesis oponent/reader hat on, I have the very same opinion, since I'm very likely interested in checking some of the references, mostly because they're unknown to me and I'm curious what they are about.

With my article author hat on, I'm for as well, since it's more likely that people actually read my paper when you cite it.

Conclusion: The more information the better.


Your college should have people responsible for determining if a dissertation has been formatted correctly. Even if you are completely unconcerned about running afoul of this by adding links, check with them first and save a potential headache. They can be very demanding and unyielding.

And depending on what you're typesetting the bibliography with, changing formats can be as simple as changing a single word/setting. This would allow you to create one version with convenient links, and another without, and so on, as desired, with essentially no extra work.

  • 3
    I did check with the University library and they don't have any requirements for bibliography format, let alone for URLs in the bibliography. Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 15:21

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