Reading Lists

The Reading list

This is simply a list of relevant resources relating to a module. This includes books and journal articles that will help you in your studies. Material on websites may be included for reading.

The reading list will provide details of the readings that you must read in order to understand the topic. The reading list may be structured to show what you need to read each week for the module.

The readings are often differentiated between suggested and recommended or essential reading. Sometimes, these terms may be used interchangeably, which may be confusing. 

Essential reading refers to everything that you must read as part of your course. This is the most basic requirement of reading.

Recommended or suggested reading refers to material that may go beyond this. It is reading that will be helpful to place in context the core issues and ideas relating to your course. This will help you to understand more and to secure better marks in assessment.

Types of reading


Main reading

  • May also be called: essential, core, required
  • What this means: It must be read! 

Additional reading

  • May also be called: recommended, suggested, further, general optional extra
  • What this means: It can and should be read to understand more about the topic

The reading list will indicate which resources are available in the library and some reading lists may suggest key texts which you should purchase (e.g. core texts or textbooks)

Reading lists are created by experienced teaching staff and designed to direct students to useful, relevant and necessary information. As such, reading lists are important in enabling students to develop a critical understanding of the course and to succeed in their assessment.

There are two ways to access your reading lists either via BlackBoard the University of Southampton’s Virtual Learning Environment or through the reading lists system. See our guide for more information about your online reading lists.

If you are given a reading list by a lecturer it can be difficult to know what pieces of information you need to to pick out for each item in order to look-up it up in the library catalogue. Now do this short interactive activity which will explains more about how to pick out the key information to help you find the things from a reading list that you have been given.

Understanding your reading list


A reading list will be supplied when you begin a course of study at university. It contains a list of the reading you need to undertake to understand the topic.

Reading lists will distinguish between essential reading – material that you must read – and additional, suggested reading – which you can read to develop your understanding of the topic.

By using the books and journals mentioned in the reading list, you will find relevant resources quickly and increase your understanding of the subject area.


Now move to the next page Quiz – Reading Lists

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