Print Resources

In this digital age, there are many sources to consult for research and study. The internet provides resources in many forms, but there is still value in consulting print resources. Oftentimes, using print resources is even a requirement in school. Print resources are hard copies of resources, like physical books and newspapers. There are several types of print resources that can all help enhance academic work. 

Print Resources Print Resources

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Table of contents

    Print Resources Definition

    As the word "print" suggests, print resources are resources that are physically printed on paper. When you use a print resource, you use a hard copy of the material. Nowadays, many resources initially in print are digitized, so you may have the option of using a printed or a digital copy of the same material. For example, several newspapers have websites with an archive section in which users can find scans of every past copy of the paper. Many books also come sold in paper and electronic format. However, when consulting some resources from a long time ago, you might only be able to find a print copy.

    Print Resources, Stack of Books, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Print resources are materials published on paper.

    Print Resources Types

    Print resources can be helpful when conducting academic research and studying for exams. To understand how to use a printed resource, you have to learn about the two main types of print resources: primary and secondary.

    Primary Print Resources

    Primary sources are original, unedited sources. For instance, the following are examples of primary print resources:

    • Letters

    • Journal entries

    • Speeches

    • Interview transcripts

    • Printed photographs

    • Political pamphlet

    People often use primary print resources when researching a paper or a project. For instance, imagine you are writing an essay about the life of Emily Dickinson. Consulting some of her letters would provide insight into her relationships and feelings.

    Print Resources, Letters, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Letters are an example of a primary print resource.

    Secondary Print Resources

    Secondary sources are interpretations of primary sources. The following are examples of secondary print resources:

    • Academic journal articles

    • Academic theses and dissertations

    • Magazine articles

    • Newspaper articles

    • Textbooks

    • Encyclopedia

    • Atlases

    People consult secondary print sources all of the time, whether they realize it or not. They might consult them for a paper or project, in the same way they consult primary sources, but they might also read a secondary source like a newspaper as a part of their morning routine. Secondary sources provide a lot of nuanced insight into the topics they cover, as they go beyond presenting raw information like a primary source and instead analyze that information.

    No matter what source you use, you must ensure it is credible. A credible source is a source that is trustworthy and comes from a knowledgeable author. Credible sources have often been vetted by several reliable people, like a team of scholars that evaluates and published scholarly journal articles.

    When using sources that were published before the internet, you will likely have to use print sources unless they are from a source that has been digitized. You may have to go to an archive to consult print sources, especially when doing historical research. An archive is a place that stores large collections of print resources for researchers to consult. Archivists are the people in charge of maintaining and organizing the documents in an archive. They can help researchers find exactly the type of print resources they are looking for. Many libraries and museums are excellent examples of archives available for public research.

    Print Resources Example

    There are several scenarios in which one might use printed sources, like when conducting research for a research paper or when studying.

    Using Print Resources in a Research Paper

    Imagine you've been tasked with writing a reach paper on Upton Sinclair's 1905 novel The Jungle. Your teacher wants you to evaluate the change in public reception of the book from the time of its publication to now. To evaluate the public's original reaction to the text, you should look at resources from that time period, such as newspaper articles and letters. To do this, you will have to look through historical archives for print resources.

    When consulting print resources, you should take note of details and quotes and consider the historical context. Typically, you will not be able to highlight or annotate an archival source, so take notes on a sheet of paper or device like a laptop. Once you have evaluated your print source, consider how the information you found can be used as evidence in support of your thesis. Make sure to cite the source properly.

     Print Resources, Library, StudySmarter

    Fig. 3 - Researchers can visit a library or an archive to find print sources.

    Using Print Resources to Study

    Printed sources also come in handy when studying for exams. For instance, if you are studying for an English exam, you might find reading physical copies of the texts you are tested on useful as opposed to electronic versions. Reading physical versions can help readers avoid distracting notifications and allow them to interact directly with the text by writing and highlighting the text if they own it. You can study the novels for your exams and highlight the most important information you need.

    Importance of Print Resources

    Print resources are necessary because they enrich research, minimize distractions, and provide an engaging experience.

    Adding Historical Perspectives

    Drawing from older print resources can help researchers examine how a topic or the presentation of a topic has changed over time. For instance, imagine a researcher wants to compare how public perception of a famous author has changed over time. To accomplish this task, they could consult print newspaper articles from years ago and compare them with recent web publications on the author.

    Creating Nuanced Research

    When conducting research on most topics in the humanities, it is beneficial to draw from many types of sources to develop a comprehensive perspective on the topic. Expanding the research process beyond the internet also allows researchers to consult various sources, such as journal entries, maps, letters, and printed photographs. All of these sources can be easily overlooked when researchers stay on web databases for research.

    Memory Retention

    Reading paper sources is more of a sensory experience than looking at a screen. Researchers have found that the experience of reading a paper source can lead to more memory retention and personal connections with texts. Since reading paper sources help readers remember information better than looking at a screen, it can help improve study skills and academic performance.

    Disadvantages of Print Resources

    Although there are many benefits of print resources, there are also a few disadvantages.


    Sorting through print resources takes much more time than researching digital sources. In some cases, it will require traveling to an archive or a library and arranging a time to sort through their documents. Researchers are often unable to take print sources home from a library or archive, so they have to sit with the print sources and take notes to consult later when writing. Also, one of the benefits of digital sources is that researchers can usually search for key terms in a text. Streamlining research like this is not possible with print resources, so they may take longer to use for research.

    While sorting through print resources takes time, it can also be an engaging and compelling experience! Planning a project far in advance and giving yourself enough time to sort through print research, piecing together sources to find relevant information can be a fascinating, fun experience!

    Print Resources, Books, StudySmarterFig 4. - One of the disadvantages of print resources is that they take a lot of time to find and read through.


    When using any type of source, researchers need to create a citation for that source. A citation provides credit to the author of a source and includes information such as the title, publication date, and format. When using print sources, especially older print sources in an archive, it can be difficult to find all of the necessary information for a complete citation. This can add more time to the research process. Meanwhile, many web publications like academic journal articles already have citations listed for researchers to use.

    Luckily, many online databases now allow researchers to input information from print sources and generate the proper citation for them. This helps streamline the referencing process, even though using old sources can make it tedious.


    It is easy to search for a specific topic on the internet, but it can often be challenging to find access to related print resources. For instance, imagine a researcher who wants to find book reviews on a novel printed in the mid-19th century. Finding print sources on this specific topic may require contacting a few archives that have these reviews on file and arranging a time to visit them. This complicates the research process and adds time, energy, and sometimes financial costs.

    Difficulty accessing print resources is always a potential research hurdle, but if you're conducting research in high school or college, you're in luck. These institutions have librarians or other faculty members who can help students locate the necessary documents.

    Advantages of Print Resources

    Although there is so much information available online today, print resources provide readers with an experience that cannot be replicated by looking at a screen. They provide direct engagement with a text, an escape of sorts from the outside world. They can also help readers avoid the distractions and brain drain that can come with technology.


    People are faced with an overwhelming amount of information when they are online. When they hold a paper source, however, all they have to focus on is reading the words in front of them. This stimulates focus. People tend to spend more time reading through material rather than skimming it, which is tempting to do by scrolling down on a webpage.


    Reading a paper source allows readers to interact directly with the text by adding personal annotations. Readers can underline parts that stick out to them and write notes or personal messages in the margins (if they own the text). While online software provides tools for highlighting and commenting, there is not as much direct interaction between the reader and the text. Writing directly on paper can also stimulate memory retention.


    Reading paper does not strain the eyes or keep people awake the same way that looking at a screen does. Taking a break from screens sometimes and reading paper sources, like physical copies of novels, textbooks, and newspapers can be good for the body and mind.

    Print Resources - Key Takeaways

    • Print resources are written materials that are printed on paper.
    • Primary print resources are original, unedited sources like letters.
    • Secondary print resources are interpretations of primary sources like academic journal articles and newspaper articles.
    • Print resources are useful for conducting nuanced research with a variety of sources.
    • Disadvantages of print resources include the time and effort they take to find, read, and cite.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Print Resources

    What is a print source in a research paper?

    A print source is a source that was written and printed on paper. 

    What is an example of a print resource?

    An example of a print resource is a biology textbook.

    What is print resources in education?

    A print resource is a source that has been published on paper. 

    What is the importance of print sources?

    Print sources allow researchers to conduct multi-dimensional research and consult sources from a long time ago.

    What are the benefits of print media?

    Print media can provide a more engaging experience for readers because it is a more sensory experience without the distractions of digital devices. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following is a primary source?

    Which of the following is a secondary source?

    Jane is writing a research paper about the life of Frederick Douglass. She has used several newspaper articles on him as well as academic journal articles. What type of sources has she used?


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