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T is for Timeliness

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  • Greetings from your librarians! This module will explain the T in TRAP. T stands for Timeliness. When you think about timeliness, think about whether the source was published, or made, at a time that fits your topic.

  • 1) The further back into history a topic goes, the less relevant it is today. *
    1) The further back into history a topic goes, the less relevant it is today.
  • 1) Great job!

    You answered the question correctly.

  • 1) Good try!

    A topic is only irrelevant if it no longer being discussed within its field. For example, scholars have been discussing contagious diseases for centuries and the way the medical field responds to current outbreaks relies on information that was first recorded long ago.

  • Timeliness can mean using a recent source, but it may not. Remember, many topics have been discussed by scholars for years.

  • 2) When might an older source be required in an assignment on a current topic? *
    2) When might an older source be required in an assignment on a current topic?
  • 2) Great job!

    You answered the question correctly.

  • 2) Good try!

    All of these statements are true. What some consider 'old' sources are in fact classic, or seminal, works within a field. For example, Jung's work in Psychology.

  • A scholar is someone who specializes in a subject by doing serious study and research. Each scholar’s work is examined, and changes and suggestions are made by other experts in that field before it is approved and published. This process, called peer-review, can take months. So, if you find a scholarly source that seems old to you, it may still be useful.

  • 3) Can you use older sources, even in an assignment about current events? *
    3) Can you use older sources, even in an assignment about current events?
  • 3) Great job!

    You answered the question correctly.

  • 3) Good try!

    However, the answer to this does depend on the assignment. Many instructors will allow you to support newer information with older sources, but you should check with them to be sure before you include it in your references.

  • There are questions to help determine if your source is appropriately timely. The first question you should ask is:

  • When was the source published?

    If you are looking at a website, the publication date of the exact information you're looking at can be difficult to determine. Look for a copyright date all the way at the bottom of the page.

  • Has it ever been updated to reflect new information or findings?

    In certain fields, information can become outdated quickly. In many scientific fields this is especially true as experimentation is ongoing, and a previous hypothesis has had to be adjusted. It does happen in some other fields, when a theory is disproven.

  • Does my topic change quickly? If so, does this source have the most up-to-date information?

    If a topic changes quickly, keep in mind that brand new information is just that- brand new. Newspapers and other current publications will have new information, but the quality of the information may not be equal to that within a peer reviewed source.

  • When did scholars start discussing this topic?

    How relevant the timeliness concept is to your research depends on when the topic became scholarly. If a topic is long-discussed, older resources will certainly be part of your research, even if that takes the form of a newer source quoting an older one.

  • Think of it this way:

    When you buy shoes, the timeliness factor affects your decision. Say you find unused, mint condition vintage shoes that fit perfectly, and match your unique style of dress. Does it bother you that they didn’t roll off the assembly line yesterday? No! You still buy them.

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