Best practice guidelines for reading lists

An effective and considered reading list can help students to manage their reading more effectively and enables them to locate and access resources more easily. Reading lists are also used by the Library to inform purchasing decisions and a well maintained and structured reading list can help to ensure that sufficient quantities of recommended materials are obtained and made available in the most appropriate formats. A good reading list should enhance the student experience and, by engaging students with their reading, can lead to improved satisfaction rates.

The design of a reading list is a personal choice but please have a look at the links below for some suggestions of things you might wish to consider when creating your reading list.


Reading lists that follow a consistent structure (for example by week, topic, resource type or importance) are easier for students to refer to and understand what is expected of them.


Items on the reading list system can be labelled as Key, Recommended, or Further. The default is Recommended. This enables students to prioritise their readings based on the relative importance of the text to the module. It also informs Library acquisition decisions in terms of which texts should be stocked in greater numbers.

Key texts are those resources that all students would be expected to refer to. Usually this would be one or two textbooks/equivalent key resources that cover the whole module and then specific readings, such as a book chapters or journal articles, for each week or topic.

The Library always attempts to obtain resources digitally but this is especially important for key texts.  By identifying which extracts or resources are most needed, the Library will endeavour to make these available electronically and update Module Leaders if this is not possible.


Students often struggle to make choices about their reading. It is therefore helpful to consider the readership level of your students, how much they can access and read in a week, and the availability of resources.

Very long lists can overwhelm students and be problematic for the Library in terms of purchasing the material in sufficient quantities. Recommending resources that cannot be made readily available, such as out of print material, is unhelpful to students.


In general, reading lists should list the most recent editions of recommended books. Lists should be regularly updated to ensure that readings are still relevant and up to date.


Reading lists can include a range of material. As well as print books and journals, they can link to eBooks, databases, journal articles, eReserves (copyright cleared digitisations of book chapters and journal articles,) web articles, open textbooks and videos, etc.

By including a variety of formats, the reading list can assist students with accessibility requirements.

Including different types of media can aid understanding by encouraging students to look at problems from a variety of perspectives.

Electronic resources

To meet the needs of a flexible learning environment, both in-person and online, the Library has a digital first policy for reading list material and will aim to provide digital access to required material. The Library subscribes to a variety of databases, eJournals and eBooks that can be linked to from reading lists. The University also has a Higher Education Scanning Licence which allows us to make digital extracts from books or journals that we do not own (or only own in print) available via links on your reading lists.

It is important to note that some restrictions or obstacles may inhibit digital access to readings:

  • Some items that are available electronically have restrictive licensing models:
    • For example, some eBooks limit the number of concurrent accesses which means that only a certain number of students can read the text at the same time.
    • In addition, there may be restrictions around the amount of a text that can be copied or printed, or whether a text can be downloaded.
  • Unfortunately, not all resources are available electronically: 
    • Some publishers do not licence digital versions of their books for sale to libraries even though digital copies of these books might be available for purchase by individuals (this is often the case with textbooks.)
    • Sometimes the book has no digital equivalent, particularly if it is an older text.
    • Sometimes texts are only available as part of a subscription to a much larger and consequently expensive digital collection.

Where electronic resources are not available to purchase or are prohibitively expensive, the Library may be able to produce scanned extracts.

The Library can let you know if specific resources are available digitally and explain potential licence restrictions so please contact us if you have any questions.

Contact the Library Content Provision team


To ensure that lists are accessible for users with print disabilities it helps if they are not too long, if key readings for each week or topic are clearly indicated, and those key resources are available in a digital format. When a resource is available digitally, it is more accessible as text size can be increased, contrasts can be altered to make content more visible, and screen readers can be used so text can be converted to speech.

The Library has a digital first policy for all resources and this is particularly important for key readings on module reading lists. Unfortunately, not all material is available to purchase in a digital format. In some cases even if we can’t make the whole text digitally available we can make a chapter or an extract from the book available electronically, so by identifying a specific part of the text as a key resource, we may be able to make that available in a digital format. The University is signed up to RNIB Bookshare which is a resource providing access to a collection of digital texts in a variety of accessible formats, some of these texts are not available digitally on any other platform. This resource is open to learners who have a qualifying print disability.

Please check that the material you are identifying as key is accessible to all students, if in doubt please contact the Library. 

Contact the Library Content Provision team


The University requires all members of the Loughborough community to promote equity and celebrate diversity as outlined in the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. In addition, the Race Equity Charter commits the University to advancing race equity and creating an environment where staff and students from all backgrounds feel safe, happy and able to thrive.  Learn more about the Race Equity Charter.

The reading you recommend will help to make learning a more inclusive experience, encourage greater student engagement and reduce barriers to discussion.

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

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

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Update your list with more recent content and the contributions of contemporary thinkers and writers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Evaluate the demographic group or cultural identity of the authors.
  • Reflect on any unconscious bias you might have displayed in selecting resources, and consider how to address this.
  • Could this become a topic for discussion with students – especially if you find it difficult to find examples from marginalised groups/authors?
  • Encourage students to critique the list and suggest additional/alternative resources.
Access the University EDI strategy


Information on how to update reading lists along with some FAQs is available on our Library webpages.

If you have questions regarding how to update reading lists, or queries on availability of material for modules, then please contact the Library's Content Provision Team. You can also contact your Academic Librarian. 

Reading lists: help for staff Contact the Library Content Provision team