Many of the sources I have found through University databases were set up to be printed, which helped me a lot with taking notes, highlighting, and all of that jazz. Of course, I did avoid microfilm and other less than interactive sources. During my MFA I printed A LOT of articles, journals, and academic publications because the only place I could find them was through the library’s online databases.
While you can sometimes access your University’s library databases from home or where ever you are, sometimes you need to be on site to access them. You will find out very quickly if you can access and download library documents online from home, if you need to be on campus, or if you can download a VPN, a Virtual Private Network, application. A VPN would allow you to login to the department’s restricted online spaces without being there to directly access it. It might be as simple as logging into your student account. Again, check with your librarian about accessing your sources.
If you are not the printing type, which might be the best way to be with printing costs, storage problems, and our current environmental trouble, then downloading documents into a PDF reader might be the best route for you. I’ve used PDF Reader Pro and iBooks to read, markup, and take notes on PDFs, epub documents, and other formats which has gone really well.
My main point here is that when you are doing research for a class, you do not have to restrict yourself to books. Primary sources come in different shapes and sizes, and you do not have to feel overwhelmed by looking through the library stacks if you do better work on a computer. Be careful to never neglect a really great source just because it isn’t your preferred media, though.
Whether it is online, between the pages of a book, or talking directly with an expert, don’t study hard, study smart!