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Research Skills Tutorial

This is a self-paced, non-credit course that covers research skills, critical thinking, media and internet literacy, and understanding the complexities of the modern information environment (including libraries.)

Current and Retrospective (Historical) Information Sources

How current does information need to be?

The video below describes how different kinds of research questions and different subject areas or academic disciplines call for different standards of timeliness or information currency.

Following are some examples of the expectations for currency in research sources by discipline.

Discipline How "fresh" does the information need to be?
Sciences 2 years or younger is best, because in the sciences, new facts and ideas often make the older ones obsolete.
Social Sciences 5 years or younger 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 all right to use older sources too.
All Be mindful of the context (time, place, culture, schools of thought) that produced the information source.


How old is the information in different kinds of information sources?

The video below explains how and why the lag between information currency and publication varies with information source type.

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

Information 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.


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.


Web content varies in terms of currency. Some web resources are updated continually - often the fastest way to find out about a celebrity death or natural disaster is via Wikipedia and social media. But you do have to be careful of mistakes, rumors, and hoaxes.

Other websites are not kept up, and their information can be outdated.

Websites that belong to corporations, large organizations and government agencies are updated on a regular and fairly frequent basis. You can trust that there will be a way to find out how old the information is.


How to Find Current Information Sources

Most, if not all, library databases offer a way to search for information 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.

If you use OneSearch, 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. Most databases offer similar features.

OneSearch results page with Publication Date limit option highlighted

Accessibility Note

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide, on the basis of a disability, please contact Accessibility Resources and Services by emailing them.  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the Accessibility Resources and Services website.