Reading lists and how to use them by Ella

By Oct.06, 2017


Ella Haggis, 2nd year English Language student

Entering any of our English Programmes, you’ll have a lot of reading to do. The type of reading – Fiction or Non-Fiction – will obviously vary from course to course. Some classes will have one or two “core textbooks” that the lecturer will use throughout the whole course. Other classes may give you a wide variety of authors to read from, which is equally fantastic, but maybe not the most convenient for buying the books for your course outright. Ugh, are you feeling stressed already? Don’t worry.

In this blog I’m going to tell you

  1. How to strategise for either type of class; as well as
  2. How to strategise for the type of reader you already are.

Regardless of your academic focus, you’re going to have a lot to read, so why not make it an enjoyable experience? Here are some ideas and bits of info, coming straight from the horse’s mouth.

Capitalise On Your Existing Habits

Here’s a little exercise which I think will help you create the best habits for your university year: think about where you read. I want you to picture it. Where are you? Are you in your home? In the bath? At a local cafe? Outside? Nowhere because you don’t read? If that’s the case, think about where you spend a lot of your down time. In front of a desktop computer? With a laptop? Tablet? Smartphone? Headphones? The easiest way to slip this new habit of reading regularly into your schedule is to make it suuuuper easy for yourself. So easy that all it takes is tapping a different icon on your home screen, or cracking open a book right where you would normally listen to music. Is this activity going to be slightly more challenging? Yes. Does that mean you can’t do it in a chilled-out and relaxed environment on a regular basis? Heck no!

I’m gonna tell you a secret: by setting up my reading in this way, I actually found it pretty fun, and even picked up some extra reading when a subject peaked my interest.

So now that you’re in your happy place, imagining the best place to do your routine reading, you’re probably thinking “but wait! I’m about to/already have move(d) to a completely new home on campus!”. Consider your existing habits you had at home, and try to determine which one of these you are:

Library Frequenter

Ahhh Clifford Whitworth Library. It’s a beautiful, modern, resource-filled building designed for students’ solo and collaborative treks into the world of academia. And it’s open 24/7! Our fantastic library not only provides multiple copies of the books most frequently requested in a given course, but they’ll also order whatever you don’t see in stock. It’s amazing how infrequently these services are used at our university, so if you don’t see the book you want, tell someone! Either tell staff that are in the library, or send a quick message to your Library Champion. If you like the easy note-taking ability that being on a computer provides, then take advantage of the Library Search tool, and Microsoft OneNote on a library computer while you’re there.

Old School Hardcover-Lover

You can’t get enough of the real thing. Nothing beats the smell of a book, the turning of a page, the quiet, electricity-free, paper totem you are privy to. You like a real book. And you want one all to yourself so you can write in it, highlight it, dog-ear the pages, and scribble ideas or inspiration all through the margins. The best way to go about university as a real-book lover is to find out precisely which books you’ll need, and then where you can get the best deals on them. Amazon is a great place to pick up new or used copies of your core textbooks at reduced prices, and they can often deliver within a couple days, giving you enough time to receive the book and still keep with your reading. Besides that, keep your eyes on your student email in case students in your course organise a book fair where you can buy a 2nd or 3rd year’s old copies.

Computer Master

Like I mentioned, Microsoft OneNote became my favourite tool to use to take notes from regular reading. It provides the ability to draw useful diagrams, record voice memos within the document, and use the “Find” tool (which, sadly, a notebook just can’t do). The only hitch with being a Computer Master is that you need to create a workflow which will combine your notes from reading with notes you may take in a lecture. You’ll either have to print those reading notes out, or put them on a cloud (like Microsoft OneDrive) so you can access them on campus. Or if you have a personal laptop which you don’t mind taking to uni every day, then you’re fine!

Tablet/Smartphone Lounger

I looooove reading in this format because, unlike most of the other formats you may use to read, you don’t have to set aside a specific time of your day to read this way. This may be a pitfall if you’re an avid procrastinator, but if you have a long commute to uni or work, make it a routine! Your reading doesn’t take up that much time of your week, but if you avoid it for enough weeks it will feel gargantuan. Tablets that have an internet connection will work seamlessly with our Library Search tool, allowing you to view reading on the browser, or download PDFs. Tablets can be a bit of a splash money-wise, but if you buy one second hand (or some new) for around £50, and you read more than 5 books over your course, it’s probably the cheaper option than buying physical copies of books.

Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re aching to know MY workflow, so I’ll tell you.

I find it best to take notes on paper while reading and in lectures (one study shows that screen-free classrooms affect not only your participation, but the participation of your peers… Yikes!) and then every few days I copy them into my University of Salford OneDrive either by scanning or manually copying them out. This forces me to look at my notes at least more than once a week, which helps me to memorise the important stuff.

Wow, who knew there were so many ways to read at uni, huh? Now let’s talk about preparing yourself for different teaching styles. We’ve just covered four different types of students, based on their reading habits. Well, guess what? Your lecturer will accommodate for whatever type of reader you are, so it’s your turn to adapt to their various teaching styles. This isn’t hard, you just need to pick up on their habits in the first couple weeks, and use what you learn to schedule your reading.

When Do I Read?

Some lecturers will assign you reading they expect you to have finished before you show up for class. Perhaps, in this instance, it’s a passage from a play that they need everyone on board with to discuss in a lecture or seminar. Other times, a lecturer may be teaching you something technical enough that they prefer to give you an overview in class, and they’ll count on you to do the reading afterwards to fill in anything you may have missed. Take it from me, it will probably become obvious by week two which type of class you’re in, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask. Your lecturer wants you to do well and show up to class feeling prepared, so they will be happy to clarify this if you’re unsure.

What Do I Read?

On the reading list your lecturer provides you, look out at the top of the list to see if they have listed anything as your “core textbooks” for the trimester. If this is the case, they’ll probably give you one or two chapters of reading after each lecture to read from the same book. If you want physical copies of books, you should get these books first. If your lecturer doesn’t teach this way, sorry, but consider the fact that university is about listening to as many different viewpoints as possible, and your lecturer is doing a great job at facilitating this!

But Most Importantly: Read

My dear reader, I cannot stress to you enough the importance of forming good habits for this upcoming year. Making this process enjoyable for yourself will make it feel effortless. Don’t cram. It’s. Not. Fun. Put another way: Would you rather read every day in your favourite place over the time it takes to enjoy a nice cup of tea, or spend never-ending nights with a semester of reading and a case of red bull? The choice is yours. Read well.

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