Writing a research paper is a required skill in completing an education. The research paper provides experience in gathering information, in documenting information, in organizing and interpreting information, and in communicating conclusions and recommendations.
Students should not be required to use real books in research papers unless they are given most of the semester to complete research. Research implies state-of-the-art. Books tend to present material that has been around a while because of the time it takes to get a book edited and published. Relying only on books to complete a research paper is akin to only using the encyclopedia. Periodicals present the most recent data and theories. Research papers should rely heavily on recent peer reviewed periodicals/ journals and interviews and discussions with subject matter experts. Why peer reviewed periodicals? Peer reviewed journal articles have passed the test of experts. That means they are credible and the data is reproducible. Peer reviewers are familiar with the latest material available on a given subject and will know if the authors have glossed over public domain information or if the authors are biased. If a mistake is made in a magazine article, multiple people will write a letter to the editor to point out the mistake. The use of periodicals provides far more references for a research paper than just reading one book. Periodicals are often available on the Internet months before the print edition is released.
If the research paper concerns a biography, works of literature, or historical information, then the student should use original or primary sources such as deeds, land grants, marriage certificates, newspaper accounts, letters, maps, and journals. If a mistake has been made in a popular book, it will find itself replicated in future writings about the era or individual. If a mistake is made in a book, an errata page may be printed and sold with new copies; but no attempt is made to find early purchasers and to get them a correction. If primary sources are used, it is less likely that the research paper will become a study in revisionist history.
With so much information available on the Internet today including plagiarism detection, it is actually easier to plagiarize if the student is required to include a book in the references. Books are not digitized and available on the Internet, but periodicals and newspaper articles are. Plagiarism detection software will find sentences lifted from material available on the Internet, but may not find sentences from copyrighted material such as a book.