ISBNs, ISSNs and DOIs: getting unique identifiers for research outputs

These are unique identifiers for publications and research outputs which you can use to identify your work:

  • International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) for books
  • International Serial Standard Numbers (ISSNs) for serials such as journals and monograph series
  • DOIs for digital documents such as journal articles and conferences papers

If you are publishing your work through a publisher it is very likely that they well assign a unique identifier.  If you are publishing through the university or self-publishing, you may wish to do this yourself.  The information below explains more about the identifiers and how to get them.

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs)

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) are unique identifiers for books and related material.  You will need an ISBN for your publication if you wish to sell it through bookshops and online retailers as they rely on ISBNs to identify, select and stock the correct titles and editions. It is advisable to get the ISBN before you publish, so it can be printed on the work itself.

There is no requirement for a book to have an ISBN.

How do I get an ISBN?

The Library at SHU can provide you with an ISBN if you are publishing a book through the University.  Please contact the Library Research Support Team: Email: or call: (0114) 225 3852

If you are self-publishing a book externally to the University and you need to obtain an ISBN, you can buy an ISBN through the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency.

If you are publishing through a publisher, they will usually organise an ISBN for your book.

Legal Deposit: the British Library

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 requires one copy of each book to be sent to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library within one month of publication and specifies other libraries which are entitled to a copy upon request.  Please be prepared to provide at least one and up to five copies for this purpose. If you are publishing through the University, the Library Acquisitions team will submit these on your behalf.

The requirement for legal deposit also covers electronic materials. If your book is published in print and electronically you only need to deposit one medium – this would usually be the print format. If your publication is only in electronic format and is freely accessible on the web, the British Library will attempt to archive it through a crawling process.  If access to the book requires a password, subscription or payment, the British Library will contact you.

For more information see the Legal Deposit pages on the British Library website.

International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSNs)

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an internationally accepted code which identifies the title of a serial publication. Serials are publications that have multiple issues published over time, which retain the same title for each issue and for which there is no planned end. Examples include whole journals, magazines, annual reports and monograph series.  The ISSN UK Centre assigns ISSNs to publications.  If you are the editor of a serial publication produced at SHU and would like to obtain an ISSN, please contact the Library Research Support Team: Email: or call: (0114) 225 3852

If you work is going to appear in a journal or other serial published by a publisher, the serial should already have an ISSN.

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and the DOI service