If you are writing a paper on the debate over affirmative action in higher education, should you use a source published in 1985? Possibly. The source from 1985 might have useful information on the history of affirmative action, but it will nit contain up-to-date information. However, a source published in 2012 might be more relevant. It would certainly cover recent developments, especially with court cases.
When we evaluate web sources, timeliness or currency also pertains to whether or not the site is up-to-date and the information is being maintained. We tend to think that since it’s on the Web, it must be current. Frequently, information on the web is "abandoned" by the owner for various reasons.
One of the best ways to check whether a page is current or not is to look for clues (see checklist below). Also, as you conduct your research, you should get a general sense of what type of information is dated and what seems newer. This understanding will help you evaluate the timeliness/currency of most sources.
Here are some things to look for when you're evaluating the timeliness of a website:
Can't find the "Last Updated" date? It could be anywhere on the page, but check these places if you can't find it:
Can you tell if this page is up-to-date?
What topic does this page focus on? When was the site published? Can you make any conclusions about the timeliness of the information?
What can you conclude about the timeliness of this article? (the entire article is not available but check for clues in the publication date)