Resource format preferences across the medical curriculum


  • Keith M. Pickett MLIS, Research Support, Web Resources and Education Librarian, Rudolph Matas Library of the Health Sciences, Tulane University, 1430 Tulane Avenue, Mail Code 8586, New Orleans, LA 70112-2699



Library Surveys, Library Collection Development, Information Services, Questionnaires


Objective: This research study sought to determine the formats (print or electronic) of articles and book chapters most-preferred by first-year medical students, third-year medical students entering clinical clerkships, and incoming residents and to determine if these preferences change during the course of the medical curriculum. These trends will enable academic health sciences libraries to make appropriate collection development decisions to best cater to their user populations.

Methods: First-year medical students, third-year medical students, and incoming medical residents were asked to complete a paper survey from September 2014 to June 2015. The survey consisted of five multiple-choice questions, with two questions given space for optional short answers. Quantitative and qualitative responses were collected and calculated using Microsoft Excel.

Results: First-year students, third-year students, and incoming residents all preferred to read journal articles and book chapters in print, except in cases where the article or book chapter is under ten pages in length. Although print is preferred, demand for electronic articles and book chapters increases as students progress from undergraduate medical education into residency. The only category where a majority of incoming residents chose an electronic resource was which format they would give to a colleague, if the article or book chapter was critical to the care of an individual patient.

Conclusions: The preference for print resources is strong across the medical curriculum, although residents show an increased preference for electronic materials when compared to first- and third-year students. Academic health sciences libraries should take these preferences into account when making decisions regarding collection development.