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for Undergraduates

UG CamGuides: How do I find books and articles from a reading list?

Break down a reading list into different types of resource and know how to recognise them from their reference.

Reading lists are beacons to guide you through the vast array of research in your subject area. They are recommendations of books, journal articles and other resources made by your lecturer, supervisor or Director of Studies. Sometimes they are comprehensive, other times very specific. Not all degree programmes use reading lists throughout the duration of the course. However, it is likely that academic staff will recommend readings to you at some point.

In most cases you are not expected to buy items listed on reading lists. Increasing numbers of books and articles are available to you online and the huge number of libraries in Cambridge mean you should be able to get access to physical copies (where they exist) without too much trouble. Your college library will usually have most of the books you'll need for the first year of your studies. If you really need your own copy, your department will let you know.

This section will focus on explaining the sorts of resources that may be on a reading list and how you can recognise them from the reference. We then discuss how you find them, both physically and online.

Click on the icon to the left to listen to this introduction as an audio recording

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What kind of information do you use for your academic work?

Make a list of the types of information that are relevant to your subject - e.g. technical reports, law records or proceedings, research data, fiction or poetry, academic criticism, clinical trials, or more.

Now think about where you would find that information. Is it predominantly books or ebooks, journals, news, social media, conference proceedings, grey literature (i.e. not published commercially)?

Having this in your mind as you read and work through the next few sections will help you to contextualise it in relation to your subject.


As you go through this guide, if there are any terms that you are unfamiliar with, click on Terminology in the menu. This page lists words from across the whole of CamGuides for Undergraduates which may be new to you or have a specific meaning at Cambridge and provides a definition to set them in the context of studying here.

Using CamGuides for Undergraduates

Go to Using CamGuides for Undergraduates for information about what is included in the resource and how to find your way around it

There is plenty of support is available when you start in Cambridge. However, if you'd like to ask something specifically about using CamGuides for Undergraduates, email

  • CamGuides for Undergraduates is completely optional
  • It comprises five sections
  • It is aimed at all new undergraduates
  • You can revisit it at any time
  • You don't need to sign up to any platform
  • There are optional tasks to complete next to the lightbulb icon in a grey box

Image credits

CC0 by Wadi Lissa via Unsplash

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