Looking for the newest information – finding the freshest fruit
If we’re looking for something like information on the Czech Republic’s population size, we’ll look at the last census from the Czech Statistical Office. For the previous year or two, we’ll look in papers that have updated the situation or we’ll compare them with the present, i.e. news, overviews and comparisons.
This means that if you’re writing a year-end thesis on Facebook and contemporary secondary school students, you’ll probably need to look in the most current sources. Why? This type of knowledge ages and changes very quickly. For example, the current situation is such that secondary school students are leaving Facebook for Instagram and Twitter.
Examples: Current programs in the field of the prevention of cyberbullying, artificial intelligence in contemporary education, connections between technologies and citizenhood, or digital competencies.
Establishing a relevant period
If you’re not looking for news that’s “hot off the press”, you can establish a certain period of relevance while conducting your search.
If, for example, you’re looking for a study dealing with learning in online courses, an interesting limit to set is 15 years. Why? There’s a huge difference in the way learning took place in online courses now and 20 years ago. Back then there were no social networks. The opportunities for interaction between users was very limited – websites then were more like bulletin boards. Connecting to the internet was (sometimes) paid for according to the flow of data.
That’s why it’s important to think about milestones and the impacts that the topicality of information has on your needs. There’s no ruler or scale for this. Evaluation is subjective and should make sense logically and in the context of available information.
Examples: Secondary school ecological movements, transformations of preferences in the use of social networks among secondary school students.
Intentional searches in a different time period
You might need to completely leave out the present while conducting your search. For example, this can happen when you focus on the early works of a certain author who then refuted his or her later findings. This means that what seems most topical in time does not always have to be the most suitable.
Consideration of cultural-political influences
Politics also intervene into the topicality of information. For example, if we’re looking in Czech philosophical publications over the last half-century, there will be a significant difference not only in the amount of papers thanks to technology, but also in light of the previous communist regime. This means that not only the freedom of thought was limited, but also the access to information that could have given knowledge of the time a higher quality.
Something similar applies to countries with difference political regimes (like China, which censures information) or a greater degree of cultural diversity. Therefore, it’s necessary to take care when acquiring information from areas that are difficult to compare. For example, if we’re talking about the number of successful university graduates in the Czech Republic and America, we should also take into consideration the difference between free and tuition-based education.
An old bit of advice to conclude these recommendations is to try look at information in context – in a networks of relationships. Where am I taking the information from? Where will I incorporate it?
Here it would be good to mention one more genre of scientific texts – the overview study. The goal of an overview study is to map available knowledge of a certain problem using a systematic approach. You can create studies like this, or seek them out and make use of them. They provide a great springboard for research and for dealing with a certain issue.