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Evaluating for credible, authoritative, reliable sources: Currency

Context and tips for how to evaluate sources, including web sites, so you can use credible, authoritative, reliable sources

"C" is for currency

Currency refers to how recent the information is.

Common pitfalls

"The newer, the better" is not necessarily true.

Remember that currency is only one of several areas to consider when evaluating a source. Just because a source is current does not mean that it is the best choice for your research.

 "If it comes from the web, then it must be current" is not always true.

Information posted online can be there for several years. It's your job as a researcher to be a detective and hunt for the date that the information was posted or last updated.

Additional sources

These open access materials go more in-depth into related issues, strategies, and importance of evaluating information and resources. 

Questions to ask about the currency of a source

Ask yourself these questions when thinking about the currency of a source and its information:

  1. When was the information published?
  2. Has the source been modified, updated or revised? When did this take place?
  3. If the information is found online, does the Web site have current links or broken links?

Where do I look?

question mark and copyright symbolYour tasks:

  • Scroll up and down: dates often appear near the top or the very bottom of a web page
  • Try to determine if a date you've found is for the whole web site or only one portion

Image source: "Question Copyright 2" by Stephan Baum is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Remember the context!

photograph of an alarm clockDoes it matter if the information is old or new?

Sometimes, the currency of the source is very important. For example, if you are researching about a time-sensitive topic such as a current event, then it's important to find sources that have been published recently. Likewise, if you are searching for information about what restaurant to go to tonight, it's important to use current information. (You don't want to arrive at a location only to find that the restaurant went out of business ages ago!)

Sometimes, though, the currency is not that important!

For example, if you are searching for literary criticism about Shakespeare's plays, then the currency might not matter at all. Criticism written in 1902 about imagery in Hamlet can still be relevant today.

Image source: "Clocks 001" by Albert Jankowski, WikiMedia Commons is in the Public Domain

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