3 Reasons You Need Recent Sources

Research cemeteryWriting is often all about research.  Yeah, I’m a little biased because I write so  much nonfiction but even in fiction you should find yourself doing research.

One of the things that I emphasize with my students is finding recent source materials.  No matter what you are writing about, you need to find sources that are less than 4 years old.  Yes, even if you are writing about history or archaeology.  There are 3 reasons for this.

Definitions (1)

Something as basic as how words are defined can change.  When I was an anthropology student working on my BA, we learned that people were animals that used tools.  That was the set definition because we were the only . . .

Wait a minute.  Isn’t that chimpanzee using a tool?  What about that dolphin?  Ignore that finch.

I’m being cheeky but that isn’t the only definition that has had to change.  There are technologies today that didn’t exist 10 years ago.  They change even our vocabulary.

Technology and Findings (2 and 3)

Speaking of technology, that’s another reason to use recent materials.  Because with so many advances in science and technology, we are also seeing advances in what we know.  Genetics alone has impacted numerous fields from anthropology to paleontology and biology.

And that’s only one field impacted many others.  The ripple effect is amazing.

But this means that there is a wealth of information out there that is being added to every single day.  I’m not saying that you should abandon older sources.  I just used a journal article from 20 years ago.  Granted, I am writing about the history of my topic.  But even that can benefit from new sources that discuss new findings.

This means that even if you are writing about something that is long gone, you need to find the recent materials.  No, your topic hasn’t changed but our understanding of it may have changed a great deal.  All it takes is one new discovery or a new way to examine things.