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Research Process: Getting Started: A. Current vs. Historical Information

A guide to assist students in conducting research using the wide variety of information sources available to them.

Information Currency

How current does the information have to be? Do you need up-to-date information, or do you need an historical account of an event or issue?

Here are some suggestions of sources to use based on currency of information:

If you need the most up-to-date information, you might want to start with:

  • newspapers - published daily or weekly
  • periodicals - published weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually
  • web - publication is continuous; organizations often update their web sites more frequently then they can a publication (be sure to check date for latest revisions).

If you need a general overview of a certain topic, and the publication date of the information is not a factor try:

  • encyclopedias - can be general in nature, or domain-specific; updates or new editions are not a guarantee or on a regular schedule. Many encyclopedias and other reference sources are available online. See the General Reference Collection Guide. (*Check with your instructor to see if you are permitted to cite encyclopedias in your research.)

If you need information from an historic time period to provide a backdrop or global perspective for a topic, you can search:

  • SUMMON or the Catalog for books, periodical titles, government documents, microforms, audio and videotapes, rare books, maps, and manuscripts. Search by publication date, or a specific time period as a subject heading.
  • The Libraries also provide access to many databases that have historical materials. See the listing of History databases or the History Subject Guide.