One of the first things you should be looking for when you come across new source material is how current it is. According to the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico, the following four questions can help you determine this.
When was the information published or posted?
It is very important that you find the publishing or posting date as that says a lot about how reliable and credible the source is. Any book, article, or website you come across that does not clearly list the date should not be used.
Has it been recently revised or updated?
Another question you will want to consider when deciding if a source is current is whether or not it has been recently updated. When looking for information about topics that don’t change (such as foundational principles of the Church), recent updating is not as important. However, for other topics relating to things like politics or current events, recently updated information is much more important. Think about this as you conduct research for your own essay. How important is it that the information you are using be recently updated?
Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
As mentioned above, the topic you are writing about should really be your guide in deciding how current your sources need to be. Returning to the example above about foundational Gospel principles vs. current events, how important do you think updated sources are within the context of a Gospel principle-centered topic? Would it be just as appropriate to quote ancient scripture as it would be to quote the current prophet, President Russell M. Nelson?
How might the same set of questions apply to an essay about the current economic policies within your country? How important might the most current information be with a topic like this?
Are the links functional?
Another way to tell if a source is current is to check if the links in the article work. If the source is linking to other sources that no longer exist or have not been updated in quite some time, it could indicate a problem with credibility.
Ponder and Record
- Based on your current essay topic, how important is it for you to use current source materials?
- Would less recent source materials work just as well? Why or why not?
Need More Help?
- Study other Writing Lessons in the Resource Center.
- Visit the Online Tutoring Resources in the Resource Center.
- Contact your Instructor.
- If you still need help, Schedule a Tutor.