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Understanding your reading list

A guide to understanding your reading list

Understanding your reading list

Where is my reading list?

Your reading list may be on-line in a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) such as SGUL Canvas or Kingston Canvas.  It may be in your Module Guide or Student Handbook. Your tutor will tell you where to find it. Copies are not kept in the library.

What is my reading list?

Your reading list is a list of items which describe a set of information resources that your lecturer or course leader recommends you read.

What is in my reading list?

Your reading list will be designed by your lecturers and it will contain a set of references to books, journals articles, websites and audio visual materials which will be useful to you in your studies.

How do I find the items on my reading list?

It will be your responsibility to find and access the items referenced on your reading list, although your lecturer may provide links to some of them. This guide is designed to help you understand what the references mean and how to find them using St George’s Library resources.

What is a reference?

A reference is a description of an information resource, such as a book, which provides the details needed to locate the item. At a minimum, a reference will typically include details of the author, date of publication and title.  Hunter, the library search tool, contains a database of references of different resources including journals, articles and books. References can also be formatted in different styles. For example, this is a book reference in the Harvard format:

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 11th edn. London: Red Globe Press.

The book referenced above can help with referencing. Copies are available to borrow from the library. There is also an online guide available at

Common abbreviations

Journal names are sometimes abbreviated. For example the American Journal of Physiology may be shortened to Am J Physiol.
Sometimes organisations or associations will also be described using acronyms e.g. RCM stands for Royal College of Midwives.

(ed.) after a name indicates an editor e.g. ‘Smith (ed.)’.
edn. after a number indicates ‘edition’, e.g. ‘3rd edition’.
‘et al.’ is used when there are several authors.
URL stands for ‘uniform resource locator’ and is the address of a webpage or internet resource.

If you have trouble understanding any of these please consult the library or ask your tutor.

HINT: When producing references and a bibliography for you own work do not copy those in your reading list as they may not correspond to the style required. Use the referencing system required by your course.

The differences between book and journal references

To tell the difference between a reference for a book and a journal remember:

  • If it is a reference for a journal it will usually contain a volume, issue and some page numbers.
  • If it is a reference to a book the only number in brackets will usually be the year of publication e.g. (2015).
  • If it is a reference to a book chapter, it will usually include the name of both the author of the chapter and the editor of the book as well as two titles: the title of the chapter and the title of the book.
  • References to electronic books and electronic journals may both contain URLs. To look for e-books you have to use the Books and more option on Hunter and for e-journal articles use the Articles and more option.

Make sure you know what you are looking for before you start to search.


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