How Old Should References be: Best Age of Sources in writing

The Best Age for Your Research ReferencesThe Best Age for Your Research References

The Best Age for Your Research References

When you are referencing, it is vital to consider the age of references. It has to be up to date to make your research authentic. Due to the advancement of science, it can be awkward to reference the older content that lost value after being overtaken by the latest scientific steps. Our piece tries to justify this aspect.

How Old Should References be

Before you cite other people’s work, you must think of what can be an appropriate source to support the argument that you are elaborating on.

The best practice is that a reference should not be older than 5 years to ensure that the source is as recent as possible. However, when researching old topics like history and scientific data, your sources can be older since such content requires accuracy over recency. Regardless, the majority of sources should be within 5 years.

creating a reference list

In general, the limit can be ten years but it is good to use the original source before you use the most recent reference.

Any reference that dates 20 to 30 years may be outdated or no longer relevant. Our caution is; you can still include older references where they are applicable.

However, make a proper judgment based on your field of study. You need to place your work in the current content.

Best Places to get recent and Credible Sources

1) Authority Websites

Several online sources do not have factual information to help you to accomplish your research mission. You have to countercheck the information to establish if it is an authority website or not.

The most reliable websites are the government or other educational websites. Some of the credible websites to use in your research work areas are listed below:

  • US Census Bureau
  • UK statistics
  • The World Factbook 
  • Science.gov

2) Credible Journals

One can determine how credible a journal can be by checking how many times people cited it.

using Google scholar

Still, you can find the right information from reviews of other scholars.

You can perform a CRAAP test which involves gauging it through Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

You rather take long than cite unreliable materials. Examples of credible journals are:

  • Oxford Academic
  • Google Scholar
  • SAGE Publishing
  • Microsoft Academic

3) Credible News Sources

One should take more caution while citing news sources because it is difficult to determine unbiased and unreliable ones. You can apply the CRRAP test principle.

In our paper writing guide, we explained that the references should be from credible sources. Now, the most credible ones in this category are listed below:

  • Bloomberg
  • The Washington Post
  • The New York Times

Best Age for Research References

1. Essays

While researching for your essay assignment, it can be fulfilling if you cite your content using credible websites and journals. For example, if you are handling a science-based assignment, you can use references from natural sciences sources like NASA, PopularScience, National Geographic, or Scientific American.

Even better, you can use government entities to advance your research and make your work. One perfect example is the United States Justice Statistics or CIA World Factbook.

2. Research Papers

When you are writing your research paper, you have varying options to reference your sources. Firstly, you can begin with using credible research journals such as Google Scholar because it is easy to search it on the web.

Thankfully, this Google Scholar is free. Other credible journals in that order are JSTOR, ScienceDirect, Academia, and Scopus.

Besides, you can still use research think tanks which can add value to your efforts. The most common ones are Pew Research Center, Rand Corporation, and the Milken Institute.

3. Thesis and Dissertations

For you to make your thesis or dissertation content to be credible, you have to reference your work using reliable sources. The most outstanding one is to use information from credible journals like Academia or SAGE Publishing.

Even better, you can cite your work using credible news sources since the institutions still find such sources to be subjective. The most popular ones are BBC News, Google News, CNN, or The Wall Street Journal.

As if that is not enough, you can use academic libraries and databases. Some of the trusted sources within this category are Scopus, ProQuest, and JSTOR.

Factors Determining the Age of References/Sources

1) Date of Publication

showing publication dates

The date of publication of any research article tells us the age of the sources.

If a website journal indicates the date when they published the article, it becomes a perfect measure of the article’s age.

For example, if you want to cite those articles that are within the ten-year limit, you begin by checking when the websites published the piece.

2) Scientific Developments

Due to scientific advancements, you can encounter the materials in some authority websites which still use outdated concepts.

Since you want to update your piece with the most recent information that indicates basic scientific developments, you can avoid such sources. You can determine the age of that article by when the concepts it is advocating ended after the latest discoveries.


Why most Professors want recent Sources

Professor prefers the most recent sources because they have the most current and relevant information to support your topic and assignments. Besides, the recent sources carry the latest developments about the topic hence reliable for contribution and make your research work to be credible.

Besides, professors will prefer students to use the most current source to cite their work because they do not want their paper to have outdated, biased, or unreliable information thereby compromising the credibility of the research.

You should try to check the time when the journal came into publication to get the right information that your professor is seeking.

Also, the number of sources for a research paper matters. This is because the majority of the sources should be recent. Therefore, if you have many, the age of the sources will be a factor to balance them.

Josh Jasen
Josh Jasen
When not handling complex essays and academic writing tasks, Josh is busy advising students on how to pass assignments. In spare time, he loves playing football or walking with his dog around the park.