We’ve all heard it before. A student comes to the desk and announces that although she already has almost all the sources she needs for a paper, her assignment specifies that she must include at least one “print” source.
In an interesting twist, I’m starting to hear this from students who’ve done everything right. They’ve consulted our databases and found the full text of scholarly articles online. But they get very nervous when I tell them that these full text articles online “count” as “print” sources. How in the world could they have known? It makes perfect sense to me and to their professors, but there’s no way a student could know that “print” simply means “formally published” in all but a small minority of cases.
So I’ve begun to teach Ulrich’s whenever I think this might come up. So far I’ve only done it twice, but each time was completely surprised by the reaction I got. The students ate it up, and of all the things we went over in class, this was the thing they’d come up afterwards to get even more information about. Finally, there’s a way for them to tell without a shadow of a doubt if the PDF they found on Google or via one of our databases is a “print source” or just some paper up online. Here’s the rule: if it’s in Ulrich’s, it’s a “print” source, even if it’s an e-only publication. As an added bonus, you can also tell right off the bat if a source is refereed, knew or established, some places it’s indexed, and whether or not it’s an e-only publication. (Added bonus for me, in order to teach Ulrich’s I have to check to make sure students are adept at finding the periodical’s name, which I always like to squeeze into library sessions.)
So that’s all well and good as a stop-gap measure, but what I’d really like to do is get away from requiring “at least three print sources.” Why not require at least three “formally published” sources, or ask students to determine if their sources were scholarly or not and then justify their choice? “Print” sources will only make less sense as we go along, not more.