When was the information created or published?

Most information sources indicate a date of publication. If a source provides no information on when it was created or published, it may not be appropriate to use if timeliness is important for your topic. For web sites, a date of publication is not always given. When it is, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether the date refers to when the information was first written or last revised. Reports downloaded from the internet, such as those from government and non-profit sources, will normally include a publication date in the pdf file.

Is the information regularly updated and how often?

Information sources may be updated continuously, daily or at regular intervals, such as monthly or annually.

For example:

  • Exchange rates published by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
  • News articles published in The Courier-Mail.

Check the dates of the references and data used to determine the currency of the information. Dead links or inappropriately displaying graphics on a web page are a sure sign of irregular maintenance.

Is timeliness important to your information need?

Be aware that some information remains valid over time, while other information may become discredited or obsolete.

For example:

  • The Australian Constitution is an example of a document which is still valid after 100 years.
  • Older maps may not reflect geopolitical changes that have occurred.

Currency of information is more important in fields which are rapidly and continuously developing such as information technology or business. However, uniqueness of a topic or in-depth analysis is sometimes more important than being on the cutting edge!