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12. Evaluating Web Sites: Clues to currency

If the topic of your research is time-sensitive, the currency of information on the web site will be important to your decision about whether the site fits your purpose. You'll be asking yourself whether its information is from the right time period to suit your purpose.

For some topics, that may mean you want the most up-to-date information. But for other topics, you may need primary sources - those created at the same time as the event or condition you're researching. (Secondary sources are those that cite, comment on, or build on primary sources.)

Clicking for clues about currency:

  1. Click around the site to gather clues as to how recent the information is. Look for statements about when the information was created:

    • The dateline on a newspaper article represented there, for instance, and/or when it was posted on the site.
    • Page creation or revision dates.
    • A What's New page that describes when content was updated.
    • Press releases or any other dated materials.

  2. Also test links to see whether they work or are broken. If several are broken, perhaps no one is looking after the site anymore, which could indicate there is newer information that is relevant to the site that has never been posted there.
Make the inference: Consider the clues. Then decide the extent to which the site's currency is acceptable for your purpose. It might help to grade the extent to which this factor contributes to the site being a suitable on a scale like this one:

 

You'll want to make a note of the web site's grade for currency so you can combine it later with the grades you give the other factors.

Example: Check out how currency is handled on TED.

This site provides videos of speakers talking about new ideas in technology, entertainment, and design. (That's what TED stands for.) There's a What's New at TED page and every video has the date on which the speaker presented.

 

Practice

Check out Jewish Studies Resources (Princeton University).

The home page of this site on web resources about Jewish Studies was last updated 11/2003. However, this page serves as an index to other pages, which may have different degrees of being up-to-date. So you could consider the currency of each.

Did you notice that tilde (~) in the URL? As mentioned earlier, that indicates this is not an official page of Princeton University but instead is a personal page of someone whose name seems to be Pressman.

Find the name of the person who seems to be identified as the author of the home page at the bottom of that page. Is she an expert on history resources?

Our Answer:
Nancy Pressman Levy. Searching that name shows that, among other library positions, she's been the head of the library for public and international affairs at Princeton and has written many guides and other items about history and other subjects for Princeton University's library. It's fair to say she is an expert in history resources.


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