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How to handle your reading list

Reading list image v02At the start of pretty much every higher education course you will most likely be given reading lists. This will usually be during the first class you have for each subject on your course. This alone is often enough to strike fear into the heart of a student. When I was given the reading lists for some of my subjects my jaw dropped. The problem is that the lists are long and there are multiple subjects which compounds the amount of reading required. 

In addition to the large number of books on the list, there are also the academic papers to read and the hand-outs that are provided during each class. It can be quite overwhelming so how can you approach this in practical way without going mad?

Don’t panic

As with most things, in order to succeed you need to have a plan. Before you get stressed, realise that you can get through it if you plan effectively.

You don’t need it all

Another important thing to consider is the fact that although there might be a lot of books on the list and even more additional resources, you won’t be required to cover it all. Yeah I know, your lecturer probably didn’t tell you that right?

Whilst the books and other reading resources will hold a lot of important information, it probably won’t all be relevant to your particular course or your assignments. I’m sure you will have more than enough work to do without reading more than what’s absolutely necessary.

Handling Papers

The hand-outs and the papers I was given at Uni were usually no more than a few pages long but when you receive a number of these they can mount up. It was recommended that we read them and that was normally fine but even with these relatively small pieces, it wasn’t all relevant for the task or assignment at hand.

You need to develop the skill of sifting through the content to essentially find out what’s hot, and what’s not. When you identify the relevant information, that’s what you’ll want to focus on. Once you’ve found this info, you can summarize it so you won’t have to re-read the whole paper again. If you haven’t read the article on summarising content, you can find it here.

Dealing with the Books

The books on the reading list are sometimes pretty long, but in the majority of cases you will only need a few chapters of info at most. And even within those chapters you won’t need all of the content. Identify what information you need from the book, and then look at the list of chapters on the contents page. This will give you a clue as to where you might find the information that you require.

When you’ve identified the chapter, you can look for the info you need. Depending on how long the chapter is, you won’t want to read the whole thing but you can still find the information you require. There will often be sub headings within a chapter and this will give a clue about what’s in the coming text. You can narrow down your reading by looking for the sub headings which are relevant to your topic.


To sum it all up, you needn’t worry about long reading lists. Don’t panic because you won’t need all of the content. Identify what you need, look for clues on where to find it in the chapter names and sub headings. Breaking down the process will make things easier.

All the best in your reading.

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