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Research Skills Tutorial

Currency

Different kinds of research questions and different subject areas or academic disciplines call for different standards of timeliness or information currency.

  • Sciences    
    • The most recently published research is best, because in the sciences, new facts and ideas often make the older ones obsolete.
  • Social Sciences    
    • Recent research, 5 years or newer, is best because information does become obsolete; however, usually not as fast as in the sciences. Seminal works may be important even if they are older.
  • Humanities    
    • Age matters much less. Do not neglect new information sources, but it is acceptable to use older sources too.

 

Be mindful of the context (time, place, culture, schools of thought) that produced the information source. 

How Current?

Following are some examples of expected information currency by source type.

 Source How "fresh" is the information?

Scholarly Article

By the time a scholarly article is published, it has probably been several months to over a year since it was written, and even longer since the research was done.

Monograph

By the time a monograph (or scholarly book) is published, it has probably been a year to three years since it was written, and even longer since the research was done.

Newspaper Article

News content is released as fast as humanly and technologically feasible, sometimes even reported live as events happen. As a result, mistakes sometimes slip through, so watch out for retractions and corrections.

Website

Web content varies in terms of currency. Some web resources are updated continually. You do have to be careful of mistakes, rumors, and hoaxes.

Other websites are not kept up, and their information can be outdated.

Websites belonging to government agencies and large organizations are updated on a regular and fairly frequent basis.

 

How to Find Current Sources

Most, if not all, library databases offer a way to search for sources that were published within a certain date range. You will usually find this feature on the Advanced Search screen and also in the Search Results list. You can also usually sort your results by date to retrieve the most current articles first. 

If you use the Library discovery search, you will find the date limiter in the column to the left of the Search Results list. Enter the date range that you want to include. Then, click the Refine button.

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