What to Read and How to Find It

Most of the things you will read during the course of your degree will fall in to one of two categories:

  • Books, articles and chapters you have been directed to consult on module Reading Lists, and;
  • Material you have found yourself through independent searching and research. See 'How to Find It'

What is a Reading List?

A list of books, articles, webpages etc. that has been provided by your module tutor to accompany your course.

Where Do I Find My Reading List?

In your module page on Blackboard click the Reading List link on the left hand side of the screen.


How Do I Use It?

 Clicking on the title of the resource will give you more information about the item.





If it is a book, you will be shown the shelfmark where the book can be found in the library.








If your module convenor has asked you to read a chapter from a book, it may have been digitised. Look for the View Online button to the right-hand side of the listing. 


Some journal articles may have been digitized and these will be available in the same way as the digitized chapters outlined above. Click on the View Online button to access the digitial version of the article. 

Not all chapters can be digitised; if this is the case, you will have to use the shelfmark for the book, find it in the library then find the relevant chapter. Please note that a chapter will not be digitised if there is already an ebook available.

If your Reading Lists specifies an article, it will often be available electronically.  The link will take you to the article you need to read. Articles are written by a professionals and/or experts in the field and are often peer-reviewed which means that they are good sources for reliable and high quality-scholarly information. 

Not all articles are available electronically.  Where this is the case, you will need to find the print version of the journal on the library shelves.  A journal is a scholarly publication issued on a regular basis, containing a number of articles and often devoted to a single subject. Journals have shelfmarks which are similar to books.

Use the shelfmark for the journal, and the Volume and page numbers to find the correct article.

To learn how to find books, articles and other resources independently, see pages on Subject Searching

The Libraries

Hugh Owen Library is on the Penglais Campus, it is the main humanities library; it also holds resources on the environmental sciences and sport and exercise science. More Details about Hugh Owen Library. 

The Physical Sciences Library is also located on Penglais Campus. It is situated on the 4th floor of the Physical Sciences Building and houses the collections of mathematics, physics and computer science materials. Further information can be found here.


Developing Good Habits and Safe Working Practices

When using different resources, and working on your own assignments, it’s important to develop good habits and safe working practices.

Keeping track of the books, articles, etc you use. i.e. storing records. This is important to help you remember where you found your resources and also to develop good referencing practices and avoiding plagiarism.

How can I make sure I don’t lose my work?

Other safe working practices: being aware of the copyright restrictions on photocopying, scanning, etc.

How to Find It?

Most of the things you will read during the course of your degree will fall in to one of two categories: material suggested to you through Reading Lists and material you have found yourself through independent searching and research. 

Learning how to find books, articles and journals related to your area of interest is an important skill to develop as you progress through your studies.

Independent Searching in Your Subject

As you progress through your studies, you will be expected to find information and sources for yourself. Thinking about the type of material you require, how that information is described, and learning a few search techniques can save time and effort when searching for books, journal articles and other documents. 

Different Types of Publication

Looking for academic sources for your studies can be overwhelming – there is so much information available in different types of documents, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

If you are looking at a subject you’ve not studied before, Encyclopaedias or Review Articles are a good place to begin. These will help you understand key terms, define your topic and help build a vocabulary for researching a topic.

Monographs (books about specific topics) can be read for a detailed discussion of a particular subject, or for an historical development of a topic. Check though when the book was published and ask – has this topic moved on since its publication?

Academic journals contain the most up-to-date articles and research on their particular topic. Articles in academic journals can be used to find the most recent developments on your topic.  They are either available electronically, or in physical format on the library shelves.

Depending on your interests and topic of study, you might find media sources useful. Newspapers can provide a contemporary perspective on events. 

Depending on your subject you may also use specialist documentation such as law reports, legislation, government records, business reports or scientific studies.

Finding Tools

Once you know what type of document you are looking for, you need the right tool for finding it.

You can use Primo – the library catalogue – to search everything in the library’s collections in physical and electronic format.  Click the 'Libraries' search option to find books, journals, reports, newspapers, DVDs and other material.

Clicking the 'Articles' search option allows you to search for individual articles in all of the databases made available by the library.

Alternatively you can go directly to a databases (such as JSTOR, Web of Science, or HeinOnline) to search for journal articles.  To find out which databases are relevant to your subject, go to your department’s Subject Information page and click on the Electronic Resources tab.

Building a Search Vocabulary

Library catalogues and databases of academic publications behave in a different way to Google and so you have to use different approaches when searching for information.

Learning a few search techniques can help you to find the document you need when using a variety of databases, including the library catalogue, article databases (such as JSTOR) and can even be used to improve the accuracy of results in commonly used search engines (such as Google). 

A detailed description of methods for building a search vocabulary can be found in Preparing for Your Dissertation


In order to find relevant information, you should think about the most useful keywords to use when searching. Sometimes you can use an essay question to begin collecting useful keywords for searching. Take this question as an example:

How has feminist theory and gender politics influence art since the 1970s?

The most important words here are ‘feminism’, ‘gender politics’ and ‘art’. These will be the starting points for the search. You might like to ensure you understand each term, using dictionaries and specialist encyclopaedia to be sure you understand each concept. Next, you might want to consider whether there are other words that express similar concepts. Do your keywords have synonyms? Are there alternate spellings for your keywords?  Who are the important writers, artists or practitioners related to these concepts?  Are these terms 'broad' or 'narrow'? Answering these questions can add to your list of keywords to use in your searches.

Using 'OR' to Widen Your Search

When you have built a list of keywords and alternatives, you can use “AND” or “OR” to either narrow or broaden your search. 

The word “OR” will broaden your search by asking the database to show results that include any (but not necessarily all) of your keywords.  Searching Aber Collections for ‘feminism OR “gender politics”’ returns many results. Here, you might want to further refine your search by filtering by date, creator or location.


Tip: Once you have found a useful book and want to find more books on the same topic, try clicking 'Virtual Browse' in Primo. This will show you the books that should be next to the item on the library shelves, so it is a good way to quickly get an idea of what books are available on a given topic.

Using 'AND' to Narrow Your Search

The word, “AND” will narrow your search by asking the database to find only results that contain all of your terms. Also, 'Art' is a very broad term, so you may need to substitute it for a narrower term to make sure your search yields useful results. For example, here are some of the results generated by searching for “feminism AND painting AND 1970s” in ‘Articles’ search:


Storing Records

Once you have found useful and relevant reading material, you’ll want to make a record of it so it can be found easily. There are many ways to do this, the most basic is to use the Pin function within Primo. This lets you store and organise records to books and articles you find so you can quickly find them later. To do so, make sure you are signed-in to Primo.  


When you click the link to your Saved Items (in the top-right corner), you will be able to see all of the items you have starred. From here you can organise these records into folders, or keep notes to organise your research.

The e-shelf is a simple way of storing and organising references, but you can also use other reference management software. EndNote Online is available for free for all Aberystwyth University students and staff.

See other Software.

Evaluate What You’ve Found

Once you have found a document, you should consider how reliable or valid that document is.

Consider: where did you find it? Through an academic database subscribed to by your university, or on the open web? Databases subscribed to by the University include content that has usually gone through a process of peer-review to ensure its quality, or has been curated by experts in that field. Articles found on the open web could have been written by anyone. Think critically about the materials you consult: think of it as academic-quality-control.

Some question you could consider are:

  • Who wrote it? What is their level of expertise?  What attitudes do they have toward the subject?
  • Why did they write it? Is it a critical, academic discussion, or has the article been written for another purpose? (I.e. promotion, advertising, news/journalism, etc.)
  • When was it written? How current is the piece? Has it been updated recently?

For further advice on evaluating information sources, see: Identifying and Selecting References for Your Dissertation, in the preparing for your dissertation section.

What to Do If You Can’t Find What You’re Looking For

If you can’t find what you are looking for, don’t panic! The most important thing to remember is that the library staff are there to help, you’re welcome to drop in to the library and ask at the desk, or contact your Subject Librarian who can provide detailed help on how to find and access resources. Book an appointment with your Subject Librarian here

Remember that we are fortunate in Aberystwyth to have one of only 6 copyright libraries in the world on our doorstep: the National Library of Wales might hold the book or item you need among its vast collections. If the item you need isn’t in stock here or at the National Library, we may be able to borrow it from another university using our Document Supply Service. As you progress in your studies you may need to use specialist libraries. You can use Library Hub Discover to search the catalogues of many research libraries at once, so it is a useful tool for finding out about books to use in research.

Finally, if a book you want to read isn’t in the library and you think it should be, tell us! As a student you can use the More Books campaign to recommend we buy a book, or buy additional copies of books already in stock.