Which Date?

When you look closely at information sources you may find several dates associated with the same object.

  • Publication date- This is a formal date when the book or article was make publically available.
  • Copyright date-This date often corresponds to the publication date, but may also be the date when the object was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • Pre-publication dates-These are dates attached to versions not yet finalized for publicaton or not having fully navigated the peer review process.
  • Acceptance dates signify when research has successfully passed muster with a review panel.
  • Coverage dates-Indicate the years or months for which data is collected.
  • Survey dates-Indicate when data was gathered.

How Current is Current Enough?

There are no hard and fast rules about how current information needs to be for use with confidence or how old it needs to be before obsolescence sets in.  Some of the attributes that need to be considered include the discipline & format of information.  The intended use is essential and user expectations are also important. And of course any guidelines your professor may give. 

  • New knowledge is generated and disseminated faster in some disciplines than others.  The immediacy index of journals calculated by Journal Citation Reports measures how quickly other scholars read and cite articles.  For example theology & religion are not fast moving disciplines, whereas in genomics new discoveries are made almost daily.
  • How information and knowledge is packaged influences currency. Tweets and blogs would be the most current publication type on a continuum, whereas news and analysis published in newspapers and magazines are in the middle and peer reviewed journals and books are on the slow end of the continuum.
  • Seminal studies are not quite timeless, but the usual guidelines for evaluating currency may be suspended for them.  Seminal works are very influential and typically initiate new important ways of thinking about a subject.  The form the foundation of disciplines and therefore may be referred to long after initial publication. Seminal studies can be published in journals or in books.
  • Statistics, especially harmonized across multiple jurisdictions, take time to be reported and compiled.  To find out if you have the most recent statistics available, look for data documentation describing how and when the data is gathered and reported.
  • The intended purpose and audience speaks to how current your information needs to be.  A practicing financial analyst issuing buy and sell recommendations needs up to the second accurate information, whereas a first year business student writing her first company SWOT analysis ought to incorporate news reported in the press in the weeks just prior.