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General Library Research Tutorial

Fundamental concepts and vocabulary used in library and information research.

D. Media Types

Media Types 

Definition: Media is the plural form of the word medium.  A medium is a way of communicating or transmitting information.  So, media refers to all the ways in which we communicate information.

In libraries, there are two primary media we use to communicate information: print and electronic. 


Each medium (print and electronic) is comprised of a variety of formats:

Print medium:

  • Books
  • Periodical articles
  • Pamphlets
  • Maps
  • Government documents, etc.

Electronic medium:

  • Web pages
  • PDFs​
  • CD-ROMs
  • DVDs, etc.


Books and articles are traditionally thought of as print sources, but now with the Internet, many printed resources are now available electronically.  There has been much discussion about whether articles and books found online should be considered electronic sources or print sources. In the chart below, all books and articles are considered print resources.


There is a third medium to know. The term “microforms” refers to various books, journals, and other materials that have been photographed in a reduced-size print. The print is so small that it can’t be read with the naked eye. Two types of microforms you might have run into are:

  • Microfiche: a sheet of transparent film, usually 4 by 6 inches   
  • Microfilm: a long strip or roll of film, usually 35mm or 16 mm 


You need a special microfiche or microfilm reader to read the information. The process isn’t as easy, of course, as opening up a book or pulling up a web page, but much information on microfiche or microfilm is difficult to find in other media, so it can be a gold mine. All of the microfilm and microfiche in the library is found on the first floor.


Medium  Advantages  Often Best For 
  • Usually goes through an editorial process for reliability
  • May be accessed without a computer
  • Not dependent on network connections or speeds
  • Provides historical context
  • Longer works such as books and book chapters
  • Historical research
  • Background information
  • Information may be updated easily
  • Often up-to-the-minute information
  • May be keyword searchable
  • May be accessed outside of the library
  • Multiple students can look at the same information at the same time
  • Easily print, download, or manipulate information
  • Shorter works such as articles
  • Late-breaking news
  • Numerical data that needs to be manipulated
  • Preserves brittle, old, and bulky information  
  • Technical Information
  • Historical Information
  • Government Information


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