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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.

pile of booksOnce you have a reading list, you need to be able to interpret the references it provides so that you can distinguish between books, journal articles, film and audio, legal cases, government reports, data, newspaper articles, and a range of other sources.

You will find that each department lists the bibliographic details (such as author, title, place of publication) in a different order and using different punctuation.

This page provides generic advice, but there are many referencing styles, so always check your departmental style for more specific information. 

If you would like to learn more about including references in your written work, please look at the section 'How do I reference and avoid plagiarism?'

Interpreting references for academic resources - click on the box title to find out more

A key feature of a book reference is that it contains not only the author and title but the publisher and place of publication. You might also see the edition of a book in there too. This is especially important for text books, which may be published very frequently; you need to ensure that you are reading the most up-to-date version.


  • Author. (date) Title. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher.
  • e.g. Cottrell, S. (2013) The study skills handbook. 4th edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Academic staff may ask you to look at a specific chapter of a book; you are not always required to read the entire text. If the author has written the whole book, the reference will probably just say: Chapter 3 followed by the author and title of the book. However, if the chapter belongs in an edited collection of chapters, they may cite the individual chapter author and title, along with page numbers at the end. arrowWhen you are searching for the book, remember to look for the book author/title and not the chapter author/title.

  • Author. (date) Title of chapter. In Editors, Title. Place of publication: Publisher. Pages.
  • e.g. Christians, C. G. (2011). Ethics and politics in qualitative research. In Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (eds.) The Sage handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage. pp. 133-155. 


The reference for an ebook may, or may not, reveal its online nature. The text of an ebook will be identical to the print version and so the reference can look the same. However, sometimes academic staff may make it clear by writing [Online] next to the title in the list of references.

  • e.g. Ball, P. (2004) The Elements: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford; Oxford University Press) [online]

Many ebook platforms will provide you with a reference to copy and paste or download. This will include standard bibliographic information (author/title) but possibly also a URL, a DOI (a unique identifier that will link to the resource even if the URL changes) and date accessed.

  • e.g. Ball, Philip, The Elements: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2004; online edn, Very Short Introductions online, Apr. 2014),, accessed 25 Jan. 2019.

Please note that this may be in a different style to the one you are used to using. If you are including the reference in your written work, you may need to edit it so that matches the rest of your references.


Article references are distinct because they list the volume and issue of the journal. You will usually see page numbers too, though these are omitted from some online article references.

  • Author(s). (Date). Article title. Journal Title, Volume (Issue), Pages.
  • e.g. Häfner, A., Oberst, V., & Stock, A. (2014). Avoiding procrastination through time management: An experimental intervention study. Educational Studies, 40(3), 352-360.


You may also be encouraged to consult:

  • primary sources,
  • conference papers,
  • legal cases,
  • reports,
  • news items
  • and other forms of literature depending on your subject area, which all require different types of bibliographic information. You will have these pointed out to you or you can ask your supervisor/Director of Studies/lecturer if you are not sure. When have your CRSid username and password, you will be able to use Cite them Right, an online resource that shows you what is included in each type of reference. Search for it in iDiscover, the library catalogue.

    lightbulb icon What does a reading list look like?


    We have put together a sample reading list on the topic Study Skills to show you what a reading list might look like. You are not expected to read these books at any point; it just for demonstration purposes to show you how a list might be structured and annotated by a member of academic staff. Of course, you might find some of them useful once you start studying at Cambridge so if you are looking for more information on these topics, these could be a good place to start.

    We've incorporated different resources (e.g. book, article, website) and pointed out an example of each. Can you identify other examples of these in the list?

    When you have looked at the next few pages in this section, you could search for some of the items and see where they are available (e.g. in a college or departmental library, online anywhere, or just online in specific libraries).


    Image credits

    CC0 by Sharon McCutchoen via Unsplash