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Understanding References on Reading Lists: Top Tips for hard to find items

A brief guide to help you work with reading list references

Still having trouble tracking down a reference on your reading list?

You should now be able to recognise which types of resources are being referred to in your reading lists. However, sometimes when you search for item in the library catalogue or one of the online databases you may struggle to find it.

Sometimes, errors have been made in the reference in your reading list or abbreviations or variant spellings may have been used.

Flagged below are some top tips for common errors or problems that you can encounter with references.

Bear these in mind if you are struggling to find something.  And remember you can always get in touch with your Library Liaison team for further advice.

Library Liaison Team @ Exeter

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Top Tips for hard to find items

The wrong volume number/issue number/date/page numbers is given for a journal article.

  • Try searching for the journal online and check its tables of contents to find the correct details. Alternatively, search for the specific article; this will often take you to the official article abstract containing the correct details (and the full text if we have a subscription).

Different publication dates.

  • Sometimes there is more than one edition of a book. Check with your tutor which edition you should be using.

Authors' names are spelt incorrectly.

  • Try variations, e.g. Smith, Smithe, Smyth etc.

The item isn't in the Library

  • If a book is on your reading list but is not available in the library, you can complete an Book Suggestion form and we will review your suggestion for purchase. 

Abbreviations are sometimes used for journal titles.

  • An online search for the abbreviation will generally take you not just to information about the full title but also to the journal itself (if published online).

Look out for spelling variations

  • e.g. US/British English spellings;  e.g. globalisation and globalization.

The reference lists only the author and date (e.g. Smith, J. 2003).

  • Check the whole reading list  carefully, as a full reference has probably been given elsewhere in the reading list.

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