If you have a module reading list you will usually be given it before your module begins or at the start of term. Reading lists have been put together by your tutor to direct your research. At Sussex it is expected that a full-time undergraduate student will spend 40 hours studying per week during term-time. It will depend on your course and the modules you take how much of your time is spent in teaching sessions and how much is spent studying independently.
Reading lists can be long and may seem daunting at first. It is important to spend some time prioritising your reading, and your tutor will often help you by dividing up the reading list. Look closely at how your reading list is structured; is it divided into weeks or topics or by core reading and further reading?
Some tutors have submitted reading lists to the library's online Reading Lists search resource. It is useful to check if your reading list is available at the library as it will save you time searching for resources. For a tutorial on using your reading list, visit infosuss.
There may be books on your reading list that it is essential for you to buy or a Study Pack. A study pack is a photocopied pack of essential reading. It's a good idea to find out how much you will need to spend on books or study packs so you can budget for them. For more budgeting advice, visit our budgeting for study pages.
You might be able to save money sharing books with other students on your module or buying second hand books. Make sure you buy the correct edition according to your reading list
Be selective about what you read. When you are given a book list for a specific purpose, like an essay or a project, don't think you need to read all the books, or read your books from cover to cover. For tips on effective reading strategies, visit Reading strategies.
Students often ask if they should read all the books on the reading list, and I must admit this does vary from tutor to tutor. Some will give you no books at all to read and tell you to go and find your own. Others will give you such a long list that it'll be completely impossible to read them all. And others will give you just a nice, short list of three or four core topics, core books to read. And the answer here is read the core books. Now, if you've got this long list, really do go back to your lector and ask, "What are the core books I should read?" If you don't get a satisfactory answer, then you may have to identify that yourself. So read the core books initially, and then you will be expected to read around that core list as well. Otherwise, you just get a very small idea of what the subject's about.
You may want to know how to pick books to read, especially if you haven't been given a reading list. The thing is to look at the course, to look at what you're expected to learn on the course and then to try to find books that match that. And when you find a group of books, look at the content's page, look at the index, and then flip through the book to see if it's suitable for you. Is the level right? Is it the kind of book I like reading? Because we all have a particular book we like reading. For example, I hate reading books where I can't open the page properly. And I like books with a lot of white space around it. Find a book that you really like. It needs to match up with the course you're studying.
If you want to know how much reading you should do per day, the answer is that I don't know. It really does depend on your course. It depends on what is expected of you and it depends on how much you know of the course. It's not so much of how much reading you should do per day, but it's more about how much reading you should do across the course. You really have to know at least the core information, so you've got to read enough to know that plus a little bit more. Having that 'plus a little bit more' will give you the extra marks.
If you get stuck while you are reading, the best thing to do is to ask your friend. Ask someone on your course and find out if they have similar problems. Because if you're stuck, more than likely other people are having problems, but they may have way of helping you. So you may be stuck in one part and you can help them, and they may be stuck in another part and they can help you. So really ask your friend. Again if you can't resolve it that way then you need to go to your tutor and ask them.
When you read and you have to make notes, the first thing you need to do is to make a reference of the book you're reading or the paper you're reading. Take a full reference - that's the author and the title and the publisher and the date - put it at the top of the paper, and then make your notes. This is because you may need to use these notes later and you'll now have the reference for your essay. If you make notes and you just scribble the name of the author and then you come to put it into your essay, you think, "Oh, where was that reference? I can't find it," and here it's last minute, and then it's just impossible. So, first thing, put the full title, put the full reference there. Secondly, you might want to think - how do you take notes? And some people make lists of notes, just reading and making lists. Others have used spider diagrams, or tables, or concept maps. It really does depend if you're a visual learner or a linear learner - where you need have lists. So know the best way for you take notes, but, whatever you do, put the reference in.
When you're reading, you may have to set targets. The targets are really around why you're reading, so if you've got a particular piece of coursework and you've got to answer a particular question, when you read, you read with that in mind. That's the purpose for reading. It's not a general novel that you're reading; you're reading for a purpose, in order to extract some pieces of information. Be very focused with your reading and know why you're reading it. That's your target.