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Reading lists

What makes a good reading list?

A good reading list should help students discover key sources and information that will help them succeed in their studies.

All courses are different so it is likely that a 'good' reading list will look different depending on the content and nature of the module you are teaching.

Before you put together your reading list, think about:

  • How do you expect your students to use the list?  What is the purpose of the list?
  • How are students likely to use the list during their studies?

What a reading list can do

A reading list can:

  • Indicate essential reading which will complement teaching on the module.
  • Indicate further reading which students may wish to engage with, depending on their interests or assignment choices.
  • Act as a springboard for independent student research via authors or publications and links in sources to other texts.
  • Point students to key resources in other formats such as audio-visual content.


A reading list can help students organise their workload:

  • Provide weekly readings or indicate key resources for assignments.
  • Group readings that are related by topic.
  • Point out key sections to focus on within a book rather than reading it all if not necessary.

Reading list structure and size

Help your students plan and manage their reading by:

  • Identifying essential texts or essential readings to focus on.
  • Dividing a list into weekly readings - identifying any essential reading that must be completed for that week
  • Identifying essential viewings if appropriate.
  • Dividing a long list into topics
  • Indicating any essential books that they might want to consider buying

Points to consider when creating a reading list

When constructing a reading list for a module, consider the context of the course and the individual module.  Importantly, consider your students and how the reading list can most effectively support them with their learning.

The wider course:

  • How are reading lists used and co-ordinated across the course?
  • What is similar or different about the reading lists for different modules?
  • How should student knowledge and research skills develop as the course progresses?
  • How is this reflected in the way reading lists are constructed and the choice of sources at Level 4, 5 and 6?

The individual module:

  • Does the list introduce students to an appropriate variety of source? Are there any other source types you could consider including on the list?
  • Does the list give students access to different perspectives on issues and relevant, up-to-date material?
  • What does your team expect students to do with this list? Are these expectations made clear to students? How?
  • Do you give context in the list to help students navigate it? e.g. indicating key chapters in texts, information on how to approach more challenging texts or points to consider when reading a given text.
  • How can you and colleagues signpost the reading list during teaching?

Your students:

  • It may be beneficial to recommend particular chapters in texts rather than an entire work in order to keep the workload manageable.
  • Ensure the sources on your list are current - don't recommend out of date sources to students.  The library will often purchase newer editions of items on reading lists if available but it is worth reviewing reading lists regularly and updating them with new publications where relevant and appropriate.
  • Don't make your list too overwhelming - concentrate on the key sources students need to engage with and encourage them to develop skills to identify further sources themselves (the library can help with this).


Diversifying reading lists

You may wish to review your reading list to consider whether it includes an appropriate and diverse range of authors, perspectives and experiences as appropriate to your subject discipline and teaching content

This can help develop an inclusive learning experience for students and facilitate access to a broader range of learning material than might otherwise be encountered.

You can search the Library Catalogue for texts currently held or request new texts for the Library to acquire by adding them to your reading lists.

You may also want to explore the Open Access resources available too.