An age limit on references?

May 15, 2018
"I've been told that I shouldn't include any references more that 10 years old, but there are some important papers I feel I should include. What should I do?"

The problem here is with the advice you've been given. 10 years is an arbitrary limit; if you think those older papers are important, then cite them.

When citing other people's work, you have to think about what is the most appropriate source for the point you want to make. For example, if you're writing about the development of an idea, maybe there's a reference from the 1960s that's relevant. Using a more recent reference without going to the original source isn't necessarily a good idea.

Beyond historical significance, some research results from 20 or 30 years ago might still be the best there is. Others will be outdated and no longer relevant. You have to make a judgement based on your knowledge of the field.

So, while you do need to know the current research and you do need to put your own work in the current context, there is nothing wrong with including some older references where appropriate.

See also:
Not everything you say needs a reference

If you found this post useful, click below to share!

For more detailed guidance and support...

The PhD Academy

Weekly calls with James

You don't have to do it all alone! Get the All Access Pass for weekly group calls and Q&A sessions with James

Online courses

Build your skills and confidence with our detailed video courses. Go at your own pace and get advice and support when you need it

Writing groups

Meet other students online for company and accountability

Support community

Post questions, share resources and connect with other members

Get the book!
PhD: an uncommon guide to research, writing & PhD life

order now on amazon