A study of contemporary approaches to this topic.

Eine Studie über gegenwärtige/zeitgenössische Ansätze zu diesem Thema.

Which choice is better for "contemporary" in the above sentence? I intend "contemporary" to mean "in the last century or so".

  • What does your preferred dictionary say? – Christian Geiselmann Nov 13 '19 at 11:13
  • Actually zeitgenössiche translates just to the same time as. The meaning will only match, if the reference point is known to be the present. Goethe in der zeitgenössichen Wahrnehmung would more likely be assumed to relate to Goethe's contemporaries. – guidot Nov 13 '19 at 13:53

The difference between the two is rather small, so you'd better give more details about the context.
As an offhand rule-of-thumb I would tend to use zeitgenössisch if the period for which it applies is a bit longer (say 2 or 3 decades), i.e. if the topic is something that changes on that time-scale (style of architecture, filmmaking, other similar cultural things - or general opinions like what is widely regarded as good or bad).
Gegenwärtig on the other hand would be my choice if it was something that changes faster, like government or management of a company - something that in English you would rather describe as current instead of contemporary.

In reaction to Sasan's comment

I intend "contemporary" to mean "in the last century or so".

For a period that long, zeitgenössisch might still fit, but depending on context/topic there might be other expressions that are better suited.
You could perhaps say moderne (modern) or neueste (newest) if it deals with trends that naturally last about a century.
Or you could name the starting point since when this applies, like

Seit etwa 120 Jahren
Seit dem frühen 20. Jahrhundert
Seit mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts
Seit Beginn des Victorianischen Zeitalters

  • I intend "contemporary" to mean "in the last century or so". – Sasan Nov 13 '19 at 4:26

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