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Hi, my name is Martha Plumlee, and I am an APA editor. I have been editing for about seven years now. A client I am working with has a committee member who told him his archival data is outdated - 2005, but it is still relevant to his study ,since 2005 was the last time the information was published. Is there a limitation on how old archival data should be in a qualitative study? The data was approved by the IRB committee.

Thanks for any help you are able to provide.

Hi Martha, 
I am a personal advocate for the use of qualitative methodologies — including archival data — in the social sciences, and have never heard of “outdated” archival data.  One contribution of archival data is that it provides information about extra-individual factors and/or context that cannot be collected from human subjects or physical specimens in real time.  
I would go further to say that the very nature of archival data is its ability to document past events; and as such, I don’t think there are or should be time limits on archival data. Your client’s Committee Member may have a valid concern regarding whether the research question is best addressed by this type of data analysis. In other words, perhaps archival data may not be the most appropriate choice for the research question. If current conditions need to be documented to adequately answer the research question, there may be a mismatch between data collection methods and the research question. Maybe your client can reframe the question a bit? It is hard for me to say more without knowing more about the purpose of the study or the phenomenon of interest.
The Community Tool Box has posted some resources related to using archival data / public records in community research and action: 

I am sorry for the delay in getting this response to you, and wish you and your client the best of luck with the current project. 
In community, 
Sharon M. Wasco, PhD
Ask An Advisor, September 2021

Question Date: Fri, 08/13/2021