As a student you will be used to seeing endless wider reading lists for any course that you choose to study.
If you ignore the reading list altogether, you will be relying purely on the notes you take during lectures and seminars. Hopefully you will be making regular trips to the library to do your own research and as long as it is fruitful then you should be in for a decent grade.
Why do wider reading lists exist in the first place? Your lecturer has spent quite a while putting it together so it can’t have been simply to make your life harder and make you miss out on a social life.
The wider reading list fits the specification of your course. As you enter the library you will be faced with tens, even hundreds of thousands of books – each one painstakingly catalogued according to subject area, theme, topic, title, author. Before sifting through this maze of a fire hazard, spare a thought for your reading list being exactly the information you need – curated well before you joined the course by your long suffering teacher.
What do you stand to lose if you ignore the wider reading list?
You will end up relying purely on your notes for most of your essays. You will run the risk of producing essays that are identical to fellow students who also ignore the reading list. You’ll put more pressure on yourself to have to go to the library and do your own research, at the end of which you’ll end up having compiled your own reading list which may, if fate is in a particularly cruel mood, be identical to the reading list provided when you joined the course.
What will you gain from the wider reading list?
You will instantly be prepared for applying wider knowledge to your work. After having read the material and applied it to your notes, all you will need to do is format an answer for each essay. The content will spill from your fingertips as you will confidently regurgitate all the information you need. You will also need to reference each quote in footnotes or in a bibliography; your tutor will see that you’ve read the wider reading list and will think very positively about you. In fact, if you’ve shown that you’ve read the list and still do not manage to score highly, your tutor should be impressed enough with your effort that you deserve some extra help and attention. This will pave the way for higher grades and future success!
How to use wider reading to your advantage
- Whether doing your own research, or relying on the reading list provided, you will need to use the information correctly and reference properly. The most common reference style is the Harvard Style, but other styles are used so ask your tutor or course leader which style they prefer.
- When researching online, beware of Wikipedia. The site is not trusted by teachers, tutors, professors or educational institutions generally because it is poorly referenced and the information can be inaccurate. Make sure the quotes you find online are from a solid authority, and reference them correctly in the footnote or bibliography.
- Your library is your friend – and the librarians will help you find what you need. The British Library, by St Pancras station, contains 170 million items, don’t be intimidated, just ask for help!