Monday, April 22, 2019

Using dated sources for research

A number of days back, I wrote a post on how to choose quality sources for research, in which I discussed ways to identify reliable .com sources. Typically, students are generally advised to avoid .com sites because of all the junk that exists out there on the Internet through them, but there certainly are many trustworthy .coms, as well.

Tying into the broader discussion on selecting sources for research papers and projects, today I want to talk about another general rule of thumb we typically tell students to stick to - the one about not using sources that are more than five years old. I'm here to tell you that you can, in fact, cite sources older than five years - older than 105 years - with a catch.

The reason why we typically advise students to avoid sources older than five years is because any information and data contained in them is considered out of date, or quickly heading that way, at that point. Makes sense, right? That general rule, though, assumes we're always talking about present-day, real-time information and data.


If you want to cite historical studies, data, facts, philosophical arguments, biographical information, news stories, firsthand accounts, etc., etc., you can certainly go back in time as far as you'd like to, or need to, if the source is relevant to your work. Absolutely.

A couple years ago, I was writing a paper of my own for one of my doctoral classes. The main article I made use of to build my case cited a couple of articles from the 1890s! But they were highly relevant. Here's that paper, if you're interested in checking it out. It's about how to gain genuine expertise at something (anything). Simply having 10, 15, 20 years of experience at something does not necessarily equal expertise. It was an interesting paper.

Anyway, happy researching and writing!

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