How to navigate your way around your reading list


Before you arrive at university you may not know what a reading list is, the purpose it serves, and how to navigate your way around it. Read on to find out…By Francesca Cornick

So what exactly is a reading list?

A reading list is exactly what it sounds like, a list of readings which have been carefully put together by academics which are associated to a particular lecture/week/module. Your lecturer will provide you with this list to supplement what is taught in face-to-face lectures or in preparation for seminars, for example. Your reading list may be organised into essential reading and then further reading, or by type of information source.

Your department may have added your reading list to the Library’s Reading List system (it also goes by the fancy name of Aspire- but you don’t need to worry about that!). If so you are in luck! Each item on your list will have a link taking you directly to the material making it really quick and easy to find what you need. The system also allows you to make notes and prioritise your reading. To check to see if your list is on the system, search for your reading list by module code if you know it or by browsing the hierarchy. Chances are there may also be a link to your list from your module page.

My reading list is terrifyingly long. How do I choose what to read?

Look and see if anything on the reading list has been marked as essential – start with this (recommended and further reading is exactly that). If you are asked to read a chapter of a book then you don’t necessarily need to read the book from cover to cover, as it may not be relevant to what is being taught on your module. It is important that you manage your reading time effectively to cover the necessary content.

What about the ‘Further Reading’?

The key here is to prioritise. Decide what is useful for your own needs. Will the item listed as further reading be useful to read in relation to a future assignment or feature on an exam? You may just have a huge thirst for knowledge and want to read everything ever written on a particular topic, if this is the case just try and keep a healthy work-life balance. (Incidentally, I have a thirst for chocolate milk).

Obviously the more effort you put into your reading, the more results you are likely to see, whether this be in preparation for assignments, contributions to seminar discussion, or exam results.

Should I buy the texts on reading lists?

This is up to you and depends upon what information your lecturer has given you. Is the item essential reading or further reading?

If the book is an essential key text that is going to be used heavily throughout the module and perhaps in other modules, then you may wish to have your own personal copy to hand. However, you may want to check if the Library has an e-book available. If you enjoy reading off a screen then you will be able to access the e-book anywhere and at any time.

You might want to consider pairing up with a course mate to purchase texts jointly and sharing them between you as necessary (play nicely!).

If the item on your reading list is recommended reading and perhaps only going to be needed in relation to one particular module and there are a number of copies in the Library, then you are probably not going to need to buy this item. Your money would be best allocated to an essential book which will be referred to over a wider part of your studies.

There is an item on my reading list which isn’t in the Library. Now what?

It could just be the case that there is a book you can’t get hold of because all of the copies are out on loan. If so, you can place a hold on the book via your My Library Account. The user who has the book will then be sent a notification that someone is waiting for it and will be asked to return it to the Library. Don’t forget to check if the book is available in the short loan collection.

A lot of the time your reading list will point you to the latest edition. If all copies are out on loan you might consider borrowing a previous edition as the Library will often have multiple editions in stock.

You could also check if the Library has an e-book of the item you require. There are no loan periods on e-books so you should be able to access them at any time.

If you have been asked to read an article or chapter or extract from a book, you may want to look at the Course Extracts page for your module to see if it has been made available electronically.

The Library should be notified by your department of any items which will be appearing on your reading lists. If you find there is an item on your reading list which the Library does not have at all, please let your Academic Support Librarian know.

Going beyond your reading list

After you have consulted all of the items on your reading list then what?

Through the Library you have access to a huge amount of books, academic journals and databases containing up-to-date literature and information about your topic. To really get ahead, take advantage of these resources.

Enter your key words into Library Search to see what other material is available beyond reading list items. Consult the Database page and browse the databases by subject to identify which one will contain the most suitable information for your needs.


The key to successfully managing your reading list is to prioritise, be organised, and maximise the resources which are available to you. What tips do you have for successfully managing your reading list?

Image: Compass/Walt Stoneburner/CC BY 2.0

Like this? Tweet this!


About the author

Add Comment

By Admin

Your sidebar area is currently empty. Hurry up and add some widgets.