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Reading list software: 4 things I wish I'd known first

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

This is about the relatively new software (which I call "Rlist" below) for creating reading lists for students e.g.   Biology one,   Philosophy one,   Psychology one.

These are integrated with the university library, so that ordering extra copies, getting your references reviewed for correctness, ordered, and with sufficient copies by library staff is made very easy. Furthermore, access to documents is made essentially one-click for students. Finding a reading list (by a student) is by course code, and via a hierarchy (of college, school, year, course code): so again, made as easy as possible. This is independent of Moodle; but of course you can and should add a link in Moodle to a course's reading list.

The four things I wish I'd known before starting to use the "rlist" software

  1. Rlist is not WYSYWYG (unlike most editors, Word etc.). Creating a reading list here is not like creating a Word doc (often this would be done by pasting in from earlier docs).
    Instead, there are really two separate work activities, mostly done as separate phases:
    1. Create piles (scrapbooks) of BibRecords (for use in phase B).
    2. Create the structure, layout, and format of the reading list that students will see.
  2. The real value added by Rlist, stemming from the shortcut formats for specifying a BibRecord:
    You only need to find one of these per article or book, and Rlist will then flesh out all the normal reference details from them, without your needing to know (all of) them in advance, and then copy them in: a real saving of effort. For books, questions of which edition and whether the library version is an e-book are all resolved at the time the BibRecord is set up.

    AND it will then give students a one-click access to them in/via the library if that is possible.

  3. Which are the acceptable shortcut ID formats for specifying a reference / document?
    The shortcut types of ID for a BibRecord are:
    • Glasgow University Lib. ID of a book e.g. "b1234", or "C__Rb1456321" which you can extract from the library (web page) record for a single item e.g. "C__Rb1456321" from this page
    • DOI (digital object identifier) e.g. "10.3102/00346543052003446"   or   "10.1016/j.compedu.2007.09.020"
    • ISBN e.g. "978-1456458881"
    • ?URLs? e.g. ""
  4. Insistence on presenting the students with the wrong bibliographic format. As far as I can see, the software has a serious pedagogical fault. In presenting the reading list, it uses its own bibliographic format which is NOT APA; and in fact, given that different disciplines use different formats, must almost always be wrong. It is thus forcing teachers to present to, and so to train, their students in the wrong format.

    If you (or a student) presses the "view bibliography" button at the top, it will produce a bib. list in the format the user asks (although it forgets it again as soon as you leave the page): but that simply makes it worse — the software could do it right, but seems to insist on training students on a single format, which is usually wrong for the discipline in which they are supposedly being trained.

Links to the "rlist" software

FAQs on how to do things

Making TV programmes available to students as part of your course

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