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Study Skills

Wolfson College Academic Skills: Finding information on a reading list

Help with finding, managing and using information from the Wolfson Library Team.

What is on my reading list?

It may sound obvious but it is easiest to find items when you know what you are looking for! However, in a physical library there are too many resources for you to necessarily know where to start looking. Thankfully, help is at hand! Catalogues and databases index material to help you retrieve it in person or online.  iDiscover is the University of Cambridge's catalogue, which contains millions of records for books, journals and journal articles and enable you to access them in person or online. 

Reading Lists Online

Many taught courses have online reading lists. These save you time by linking to ebooks, scanned chapters and articles, and catalogue records for print texts. To find out more and watch introductory videos go to the LibGuide for Reading Lists Online or, once you have your Raven login, try it out: Reading Lists Online.

However, there will be times that you can't find what you need on here (some records won't show that we stock a book, even though we may have copy) or your paper may not have an online list, so read on to learn more about how iDiscover works.

Interpreting your reading list

Watch this video (with audio) to see how to interpret references and search for resources on iDiscover, or read the information below.
It is 7 minutes long or you can jump to sections on searching for a book, ebook, chapter in a book or journal article.


How to spot a resource by looking at its reference - click on the box title to find out more

Academic books are also called monographs. They communicate a series of ideas around a single theme and, usually, comprise chapters. Non-fiction works summarise a field of research and communicate new and innovative contributions or insights. There may be one or many authors, who may share ownership or put their name to certain chapters.  Books are often around 50 - 80,000 words in length. They are available in print and/or online.

The reference should include the following information, though possibly in a different order and with different punctuation: 

  • Author. (date) Title.  Place of publication: Publisher.
  • e.g. Cottrell, S. (2013) The study skills handbook.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
An edited book is a collection of chapters written by several authors and compiled and commissioned by one or more editors who have oversight to ensure that the book retains a narrative.


The reference for an edited book looks a bit different. Please note that you need to search for the BOOK title (in italics in this case) and not the chapter title in iDiscover.

  • Author. (date) Title of chapter. In Editors, Title. Place of publication: Publisher. Pages.
  • 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. 


E-books (or electronic books) come in a variety of formats. Often they are more than just the full-text online, but include additional features such as full text searching, highlighting, the ability to add notes and bookmark sections. You often 'borrow' ebooks in the same way that you borrow a print work; you have access for a limited period and only a fixed number of students may consult the book at any one time. Occasionally you can download the text or a chapter. Sometimes this is yours to keep or it may disappear from desktop after a set period of time. You will get to know how different publishers and ebook platforms work throughout the course of your studies. You definitely benefit from the majority being accessible round the clock, wherever you are in the world. There are some ebooks you will come across on the Cambridge libraries catalogue, iDiscover, which can only be accessed on certain computers in certain libraries.


The reference for an e-book 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 but possibly also a URL, doi (a unique identifier that will link to the resource even if a 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 and you may need to edit it so that matches the rest of your references.

These are shorter works that communicate new research findings. A researcher submits an article on a particular topic to a journal which often publishes on a sub-discipline of a subject area, though there are some overarching journal titles. The article is peer reviewed by other researchers who work on similar topics. If they and the journal editors feel it is of high enough quality and relevance to the journal, they will publish it in an issue. Each issue will have a limited number of articles in it, up to about 20. Each article is distinct from the others, unless it appears in a 'special issue' with articles grouped around a theme. Typically around 8-12 000 words, articles are more specific than books and so are useful in attending to a particular question, but less relevant if you want an overview or in depth exploration of a subject. Generally you'll find that these are available only online, although the university still subscribes to some print versions.

Search by article title to get straight to the resource. A search for the journal title will return everything ever published under that name. iDiscover contains lots of journal articles but not everything, so you should also consult our databases to find out more.

  • Author(s). (Date). Article title. Journal Title, Volume (Issue), Pages.
  • Häfner, A., Oberst, V., & Stock. (2014). Avoiding procrastination through time management: An experimental intervention study. Educational Studies, 40(3), 352-360.
You'll also be encouraged to consult primary sources, conference papers, legal cases, reports, news items and other forms of literature, depending on your subject area.

Where are my resources?

You can borrow from your Faculty or Departmental Library, the University Library and Wolfson College Libary.

Below is a short video, which shows you how restrict your search to our resources to find all online material plus print copies held in Wolfson College Library.

More information


A guide to finding and using ebooks at the University of Cambridge

Searching iDiscover - the library catalogue


Don't scroll through 1000s of results: remember to use the advanced option next to the search box. Enter as many details as you can (author, title, date etc) to get to the item straight away. Alternatively you can limit your search using the menu on the right hand side of the results screen.

Access: If you are looking in a departmental library, is it open when you need the book? Can you access it online instead? Most ebooks are available anywhere in the world, with your Raven access, but some can only be accessed from certain computers in specific libraries. Check the record carefully to find out availability. Help and more information is available on the ebooks LibGuide.

Download item details to reference management  software such as Zotero or Medeley

Email details of a book to yourself so that you can quickly find it again

Watch this video to show you how to log in to iDiscover, view your account, save searches and reserve a book that it is on loan.

Logging in to iDiscover to reserve a book and save searches

Watch this video to show you how to log in to iDiscover, view your account, save searches and reserve a book that it is on loan.


How to access and use ebooks

Please note: this SMS video is not accessible with keyboard only access and some screen readers. Please use the YouTube version below if you experience any issues.

Video transcript

A PDF transcript of the video is available if you prefer to read rather than watch.

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