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Reading lists

Read this article to find out what a reading list at university looks like.
An image of a bookcase full of books
© British Council

On most courses your tutors will provide you with reading lists, which might be in printed or electronic formats. For example within the university’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), in a programme handbook or course guide.

Here are some sample reading lists from different departments. The list may be divided into several categories to show the relative importance:

  • essential/required
  • recommended/secondary
  • further/background

From the lists below you can see clearly that lecturers recommend specific books, and the list will indicate if any of the texts are essential reading. You can rely on the fact that all resources listed are reliable, and relevant to your academic field.

Another point to note is that increasingly texts are available for online reading; you can choose to read these online, or alternatively print out particularly relevant sections if you need to annotate them.

List 1 – Social Psychology

A screen shot of a reading list for Social Psychology. Essential Reading is a book 'Social Recognition'. Under Recommended Reading are the books: 'Help, I need somebody: Automatic action and inaction', 'The police officer's dilemma: Using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals' and 'Automaticity in social-cognitive processes'

List 2 – Construction Management

A screen shot of a reading list for Construction Management. The following books listed have the word recommended highlighted in bold. The list of books are 'Modern construction management', The economics of the modern construction firm', 'Construction project management: an integrated approach', 'The standard for program management', 'How to manage project opportunity and risk: why uncertainty management can be a much better approach than risk management', and A peek into oneself: reflective writing amongst undergraduate medical imaging students'. The following book 'Methods of environment impact assessment' has the button 'view online'

List 3 – Chemistry

A screen shot of a reading list for Chemistry as follows 'Online reading lists: a guide for students' a webpage which has a 'view online' button, 'Chemistry: an introduction to organic, inorganic and physical chemistry' a book that has a 'view online' button and is highlighted as 'recommended for student purchase' and 'Chemistry: the molecular nature of matter and change' a book.

Reading lists are often provided before a course starts. This is particularly helpful if you’re studying on a Masters course, which can be very intensive.

We’d like to hear from you.

  • Have you been provided with a reading list for your course?
    • If so, have you started your reading? How useful has this been for you to understand more about your course before it begins?
    • If not, are there any resources you have read, or would like to read in advance of your course starting?

Share your thoughts in the comment area below.

© British Council
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