Current vs. Retrospective Sources

Current resources are contemporary resources that have been created, published or updated recently enough to be considered up-to-date.

Retrospective (a.k.a. historical) resources are older. If your research project compares different schools of thought in different eras, then you will need retrospective resources. In some areas of study, such as philosophy, historical resources are as valuable as current ones.


  • When doing science, technology or medical research, use the most current resources you can get (unless, of course, you are researching a historical scientific discovery, invention or medical technique). As discoveries are made, previously accepted hypotheses are disproven and old schools of thought are abandoned or altered.
  • When doing research in the humanities and social sciences, mix and compare current and retrospective resources. Schools of thought compete, blend and evolve over time. Include older points of view to contextualize later discoveries and insights.
  • Whenever you use retrospective resources, be sure to check the facts against a current reference source. (You can use Encyclopedias, Etc.)
  • Major cultural and social changes affect scholarship. Every era, community, culture and subculture has built-in biases. When you are looking at a historical source, consider the time, place and culture that produced it.

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