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Our Services - Decolonising your reading list toolkit: Step 1 Challenge your reading list

This guide provides information about decolonising reading lists and provides you with advice and guidance on best practice.


Editor: Yuka Atsuchi 

Decolonisation Library Intern ( April 2023 - July 2023) 

2nd year Natural Science Student 

The first step in decolonisation is to evaluate and challenge your source of knowledge and readings.

Reading lists at Durham University are not representative enough. From an analysis of 100 modules' reading lists across four faculties, it shows 86% of book or journal authors are white and 94% of reading resources are published in either the UK or the USA. This shows that we need to reflect on what we read and take decolonisation actions across departments at Durham University. 


Graph: The percentage of geographical and author's ethnicity distribution of books and academic papers listed in the Tails Aspire reading list. 100 modules of the reading list (2023-2024) across all departments were randomly selected.  


Use the questions below to critically evaluate your reading lists (Tails Aspire) 

Questions  Explanation
How many different research sites and countries are represented in your reading lists?    As each area and country has its history, culture and community, the outputs of research and issues that they face are hugely diverse. So, including a wide range of case studies and research across the world will help diversify your perspectives and knowledge. 
Will all students see the reading resources reflect their background and communities?  Think about the diversity and representation of your students. University education is built based on each student's educational experience, and their learning in university should be useful for their future career wherever they go. So, it is key that all students including home students and international students can learn topics that are related to their backgrounds and cultures. 
Who are the authors in your leading lists?   What are the nationalities and ethnicity of authors in your reading list? Reading is a way to perceive other people's thoughts, experiences, and perspectives, all of which can be unique and influenced by where and how they live, which language they speak and which community they connect to. Therefore, including a wider range of ethnicity of authors is important to diversify your perspective. 
What kinds of sources do we perceive to be of most academic value and why?  This question will help you realise the colonial system in your academic field. Which journals are valued as reliable and why are others not? It might be good to start thinking about who reviews research papers and where the main researchers are originally from. 
What are marginalized voices and minor ideas in your field?  To understand academic topics and their relationship to society, it is important to raise issues in your academic field and share thoughts with students. Also, minor voices and topics can widen views in the academic field and bring innovative ideas. 
How diverse are the resources in your reading list and are they accessible to every student?  Academic books, journals and papers are great resources, but social media such as YouTube, TED Talk and websites are also great ways to grasp wider insights and voices. To guide students to a greater range of reading, it is important to make sure the resources are accessible to all students.

Visualising reading list 

You can also visualise your reading lists in terms of authors' bibliography, publication sites, years of publication and more using the Reading List Audit toolkit in Excel form. The author's bibliography and base sites can be found in Google, Google Scholar profile, using The lens-Free & Open Patent and Scholarly Search

The guide to Visualising reading list toolkit can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. 


Contact us 

This toolkit is still developing. If you have any thoughts or enquiries, please share with us.