Why do my sources need to be published within the last 5 years?


In nursing, the health sciences, and many other disciplines, it is accepted practice to limit sources to those published within the last 5 years.

One of the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) competencies states that nurses and other health professionals are expected to “integrate best current evidence…for delivery of optimal health care.” The use of sources older than 5 years may lead to clinical decisions that are not optimal for patients.

Using current sources also lends credibility to your research. The use of “classic” or “seminal works” may sometimes be acceptable.

Remember that the process of publication can often take 6 months or more from submission of a manuscript to publication. Moreover, researchers may have based their study on data collected several years prior to manuscript submission. For example:  

Zion, N., & Shochat, T. (2019). Let them sleep: The effects of a scheduled nap during the night shift on sleepiness and cognition in hospital nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 75(11), 2603–2615. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.14031
The data for this study were collected between 2011 and 2014. The manuscript was received by the journal’s editors on 11/17/18; revised by the authors on 2/5/19; accepted by the journal on 3/12/19; and published on 4/22/19. 8 years elapsed between initial data collection and publication!

The good news is that library databases typically allow you to limit results by publication date. For additional help, visit our Ask a Librarian page.



Bauce, K., & Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2018). Nursing research critique: A model for excellence. Springer. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ras/reader.action?docID=5265994
“The literature review should include only primary sources and should be as current as possible. Some journals specify that only literature within the past 5 years should be cited unless using classical sources or sources necessary to understand the study measures” (p. xiv).

Boswell, C., & Cannon, S. (2020). Introduction to nursing research: Incorporating evidence-based practice (5th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ras/reader.action?docID=5566681
“The current expectation is for references to be no more than 5 years ago, unless the article is a classic or a benchmark study” (p. 240).

Cazzell, M. (2020). Literature review: critiquing quantitative and qualitative research articles [Video]. SAGE Knowledge. https://www.doi.org/10.4135/9781529725759
Literature reviews are strongest when the articles cited are less than 5 years old; less strong is when the articles are less than 10 years old.

Dang, D., Dearholt, S. L., Bissett, K., Ascenzi, J., & Whalen, M. (2021). Johns Hopkins evidence-based practice for nurses and healthcare professionals: Model and guidelines (4th ed.). Sigma Theta Tau International. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ras/detail.action?docID=6677828
"In addition to the availability of sufficient research evidence, EBP teams should look specifically for a high-quality, current (within five years), and applicable systematic review, such as a Cochrane Review that addresses the problem" (p. 91).

Houser, J. (2021). Nursing research: Reading, using, and creating evidence (5th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ras/detail.action?docID=6717809
"Ideally, the studies should be dated within the past 5 years, unless the work is a seminal one or a theoretical selection" (p. 194).

  • Last Updated Mar 27, 2024
  • Views 1376
  • Answered By Kerry Louvier

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