Reference Linking

view reference linking factsheet

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Because Crossref is all about rallying the scholarly community to work together, reference linking is an obligation for all Crossref members and for all current journal content.

It is encouraged for other content types as well, such as books and conference proceedings.

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Persistent links enhance scholarly communications. Reference linking offers important benefits:

Reciprocity: Publishers’ content is linked together and more discoverable because all members link their references.

Crossref acts as a clearinghouse, negotiating reciprocal agreements among all its members so that individual members can avoid the inconvenience of signing bilateral agreements to link to persistent content on other platforms. The result is a scholarly communications infrastructure that enables the exchange of ideas and knowledge.

Discoverability: Research travels further when everyone links their references. Because persistent identifier links don’t break if implemented correctly, they will always lead readers to the content they’re looking for, including yours. When the PIDs are displayed, anyone can copy and share them.

This will enable better tracking of where and when people are talking about and sharing scholarly content, including in social media.

How it works

Reference linking means hyperlinking to Crossref DOIs when you create your citation list.

This makes it possible for readers to follow a DOI link from the reference list of a published work to the location of the full-text document on a member’s publishing platform, building a network infrastructure that enhances scholarly communications on the web.

Reference linking is accomplished by members and their production teams, with the assistance of authors and editors who add the links to each reference in their articles.

How to participate

After your organization becomes a Crossref member, you can start to look up the DOIs for your references so that you can add the links to your articles’ reference lists.

Obligations & fees

There is no charge for reference linking.

Reference linking is required for all Crossref members and for all current journal content. Reference linking is encouraged, but not required, for other content types such as books and conference proceedings.

Best practice

  • New members should start reference linking within 18 months of joining Crossref.
  • Link the references in your journal back files as well as your current journal articles.
  • Link references in non-journal content types such as books and conference proceedings.
  • Make sure the links in your references conform to the DOI display guidelines.
  • Consider reference linking as just one of the many relationship types that can be deposited with your metadata.


How do I find DOIs for my references?

  1. Simple Text Query Form, for manual, low volume querying
  2. Simple Text Query upload, to upload reference lists as .txt files; also for a low volume of queries
  3. XML API, for individual or batch requests in formatted XML. This is the preferred method for most members.

Does all of our content have to have reference linking?

Reference linking is a membership obligation for all current journal content. However, members are strongly encouraged to include it for both journal backfile content and non-journal content such as books.

Please contact our member services team with any questions or to get set up, or contact our technical support specialists for any technical or troubleshooting questions.

Last Updated: 2017 January 23 by Jennifer Kemp