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6-Evaluating Sources

Currency of the Content

A calendar

Check dates and other indicators that a source is current.

If the topic of your research is time-sensitive, the currency of information in the source will be important to your decision about whether it fits your purpose. You’ll be asking yourself whether its information is from the right time period to suit your purpose.

For some topics, that may mean you want the most up-to-date information. But for other topics, you may need primary sources—those created at the same time as the event or condition you’re researching. (Secondary sources are those that cite, comment on, or build on primary sources.)

Clues About Currency

Click around a website to gather clues as to how recent the information is. Look for statements about when the information was created:

  • The dateline on a newspaper article represented there, for instance, and/or when it was posted on the site
  • Page creation or revision dates
  • A “What’s New” page that describes when content was updated
  • Press releases or any other dated materials

Also test links on a website to see whether they work or are broken. If several are broken, perhaps no one is looking after the site anymore, which could indicate there is newer information that is relevant to the site that has never been posted there.

In a book, look at the back of the title page to see when it was published. Also take a look at the publication dates for sources listed in the bibliography. That will help you determine how current the information cited in the book is.

Activity: Currency

Click the image to open a web browser to the website Jewish Studies Resources, http://www.princeton.edu/~pressman/jewish.html.

Notice that tilde (~) in the URL. As mentioned earlier, that indicates this is not an official page of Princeton University but instead is a personal page. Find the name of the person who seems to be identified as the author of the home page at the bottom of that page. Is she an expert on history sources?

Now consider how you could determine whether the site’s information is current enough for your purpose.

Example: Currency

Check out how currency is handled on TED. This site provides videos of speakers talking about new ideas in technology, entertainment, and design. (That’s what TED stands for.) There’s a New Releases page and every video has the date on which the speaker presented. See the bottom of the page for the answer.

Making the Inference

Consider the clues. Then decide the extent that the source’s currency is acceptable for your purpose. It might help to grade the extent that this factor contributes to the source being suitable on a scale like this one:

  • A – Very Acceptable
  • B – Good, but could be better
  • C – OK in a pinch
  • D – Marginal
  • F – Unacceptable

You’ll want to make a note of the resource’s grade for currency so you can combine it later with the grades you give the other factors.

Answer to Activity: Currency

The answer to the “Currency” Activity above is:

Nancy Pressman Levy.

The author is Nancy Pressman Levy. Searching that name shows that, among other library positions, she’s been the head of the library for public and international affairs at Princeton and has written many guides and other items about history and other subjects for Princeton University’s library. It’s fair to say she is an expert in history sources.

The home page of this site on web sources about Jewish Studies was last updated 11/2003. However, this page serves as an index to other pages, which may have different degrees of being up-to-date. So you could consider the currency of each.


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Currency of the Content by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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