Student reading in a library

Reading lists best practice

How to get the most out of your online readling list - for you and your students.

Click on each title to find out more about the different elements of making a great reading list.

Structure your list by week or topic to help students plan ahead

You can easily structure your reading list to complement your teaching style, by theme or by weekly tasks.

This makes it easier for your students to structure and plan their work.

Here are some example reading lists for inspiration:


Consider the size of your reading list

Think about your students and what is most helpful to them. The online reading list is best used to direct them to the key reading for the module. What is this in your case?

Very long reading lists become difficult for the student to navigate and for you to keep updated. Think about how much time your students should be spending on reading.

We recommend that in most cases no more than 150 items per module should be submitted for a realistic and achievable reading list.

Additional items can be added as a bibliography with a link on the module’s Moodle page. 


Clearly indicate the importance of the text

All texts should have an importance selected. Setting this allows your students to plan their reading and research more easily and informs library purchasing. If no importance is selected then Libraries will treat that resource as further reading.

Instead of including specific items of further reading, you may prefer to include general advice and refer students to NUsearch.

To make this easier we have streamlined the terms used:


  • Students must read these to understand module content
  • Most likely to be recommended for student purchase
  • A set text, for English and language study
  • Referred to multiple times
  • Seminar reading

We will provide copies of or access to these items based on agreed ratios.


  • Students are advised to read these.
  • Specific texts to supplement core reading
  • Possibly as an alternative to some content on a core text
  • Expected to read at least some material

We will ensure that at least one copy of each resource is available. We monitor books that are in high demand and purchase additional copies as required.

Further Reading 

  • More in depth research on topics covered by the module
  • Support for different assignment topics
  • Help to broaden and deepen understanding
  • Not a bibliography
  • Encourage students to discover relevant reading for themselves using the library discovery tool, NUsearch

Anything that has already been purchased via a submitted book suggestion for wider reading or research will already have one copy in stock. There may be times (e.g. peak periods) when we prioritise checking only core and recommended texts for purchase.


Provide realistic and achievable reading expectations

The resources that you choose for your list should be easily accessible to your students.

Whilst we will always try to obtain or digitise items, we are not always able to source out of print books, some DVDs and journal articles where we don’t already have a subscription.

If an item proves impossible to obtain we will inform you and remove the title from the reading list to avoid confusion for your students.


Annotate items to provide guidance

These notes written by the tutor are useful for directing the way your students should think about that reading.

Examples include:

  • "All the textbooks have chapters which try to set the scene and consider some of the theoretical issues."
  • "This document is a good introduction to consumer policy which addresses many of the issues that concern us with this module."
  • "This discussion is quite advanced – you might like to look at some of the other material first."
  • "A bit dated and US focused, but interesting."
  • "A contract law textbook may also be useful. The following are available in the library."
  • "The whole book is relevant, but see in particular chapters 5 and 6."

General notes should not be used for adding additional material as this will not be picked up and purchased by the Acquisitions team.


Electronic resources

For the categories below we aim for e-first wherever possible. 

Dependent on the cost, Libraries will buy an ebook where available for:

  • core items where we don’t already have an ebook
  • recommended reading where we have no copy already in stock

Licensing models vary, especially concerning the number of simultaneous users, but these are usually a standard price (i.e. not based on size of Institution or numbers of students) and can be made available to all library users. Not all titles are available to us to buy (even if a Kindle version is available).

Some titles are only made available using an etextbook model. The cost of these is often higher than the library would be able to cover and such etextbooks will not usually be considered for library purchase.

Libraries can provide assistance for academics/departments who may wish to consider purchase of access to an etextbook for a specific cohort. Email for more information.

Where electronic resources are not available to purchase or are prohibitively expensive, the library may be able to produce scanned extracts. Visit our scanning pages for more information on this service.


Newer editions

We will always purchase the most recent edition of a resource where notified by suppliers or yourselves.

Where we do this, the reading list will link to the new edition unless you tell us otherwise or a particular chapter is already linked to.

Please regularly check NUsearch for newer editions and be aware superseded editions may be discarded.

The default action for digitised chapters is always to supply from the most recent edition of a work unless we are notified of a pedagogical reason for using an earlier version. For example, if a chapter has been removed or substantially altered in subsequent editions.



"We are a community where everyone can contribute and be appreciated for who they are."

Inclusivity is one of the University’s key values. Our University strategy also aims to support potential by putting measures in place to eliminate attainment gaps between students from diverse backgrounds.

This includes refining curricula so that we are able to cultivate a global mindset and campus experiences that promote positive interactions between students of different backgrounds.

The role of reading lists

We can contribute to the University's goals by reviewing our reading lists frequently to ensure they reflect key values and goals as well as contemporary teaching and learning practices.

You may want to work towards decolonising the curriculum, rebalancing gender representation and improving the visibility of more marginalised authors. The reading you recommend will help to make learning a more inclusive experience, encourage greater student engagement and reduce barriers to discussion.

Review your list

When you next review your reading list, you may wish to consider the following questions:

  • To what extent does your reading list enable students to learn about, compare and contrast the contributions of writers and thinkers of diverse backgrounds, academic roots and country contexts?
  • How could you ensure that your reading list is inclusive of a diverse range of perspectives, experiences, thinking and analyses?

Here are some ideas to consider to make a start on diversifying your list:

  • Update your list with more recent content and the contributions of contemporary thinkers and writers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Encourage students to critique the list and suggest additional/alternative resources
  • Evaluate the demographic group or cultural identity of the authors
    • Can you deliberately look for some alternatives to enrich the mix
    • Does it help make you aware of your own unconscious bias in selecting resources, and suggest areas for improvement?
    • Do you want to make this itself a topic for discussion with students – especially if you find it difficult to find examples from marginalised groups/author

Additional sources of information

University of Nottingham-created reading lists 


More information



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