Get ahead by reading around your subject – info tip

Boy reading in sunshineDuring a busy term, there’s not much time for reflection so the long vacation is a good time to do some wider reading around your subject. You may want to catch up, build your in-depth knowledge of topics you’ve already covered, or put your previous reading in a wider context. You might want to get ahead and prepare for next year’s modules, or you may be starting to work on your dissertation.

Whatever your reason for reading around your subject, it will be more effective if you know how to find appropriate resources and how to make the most of them once you have found them. The Library and Study Advice can help with this.

How will it help me?

Reading around your subject will help you to develop an overview of key themes and issues in your topics. You will be able to compare what different scholars think about topics, and what evidence they are using to support their ideas. To get the most out of it, you should be reading critically and thoughtfully.

How can we help you?

The Library has plenty of tools to help you find materials that are not on your reading lists.

Start by looking for your subject on the Subject help pages. The guides list the essential things you need to know to get you started on wider reading: the numbers at which the main topics are classified; dictionaries and encyclopaedias for your topic; how to search for journal articles and the appropriate databases to use; even some evaluated web sites.

If you already know a key text for your topic, search for it in the Library catalogue (Enterprise). From the full record, you can find more books by the same author or on the same subject by clicking on the links.

Searching Summon can give you a different angle. Enter a search term and it will show you chapters within books that are available online, online journal articles, and even news items on your topic that might get you thinking.

Yi-Yellow-Brick-RoadDon’t forget to think beyond books and journal articles, especially if you’re researching for your dissertation. Our databases can point you to newspaper articles, reports and primary texts including letters and ephemera – often offering the full text online. Plus our Special Collections have archived material and rare books to explore from Brian Aldiss to The Wizard of Oz.

Getting the most out of your reading

The Study Advice guide on Managing academic reading includes ideas on how to select materials, reading techniques and common abbreviations you may come across. There is also a brief video tutorial on Reading academic texts that includes guidance on reading strategies to help you make the most of your reading time.

Make sure you keep records of the bibliographic details in case you want to refer to the text later in your assignments. We have guidance on Effective note-taking so you can avoid having more notes than the book you’ve just read. Or watch our video on Critical note-taking to help you develop your thinking about what you’ve just read.

If you’re reading for your dissertation, we have a video tutorial on Starting research for your dissertation for tips and strategies.

Let us take you somewhere you’ve never been this summer and help you to make the most of reading around your subject!

This is one of a series of tips to help save you time and effort finding or using information.

This info tip was written by Tim Chapman, Science and Life Sciences Liaison Team Manager and Ian Chilvers, Liaison Librarian for Computer Science & Mathematics and Statistics.