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Good Practice in Creating Bibliographies 

Every module is a conversation. It is a conversation amongst students, tutors, all the voices that students and tutors bring with them from their contexts and experience, and all the voices that students encounter in the materials that they read, watch, and listen to during the module.  

Developing and tending a good bibliography is one of the ways in which tutors can shape a module’s conversations. It is therefore one key element in the processes by which tutors develop and tend their modules, year by year. Each year, as part of the normal processes of module review and development, tutors should be adding new materials, pruning existing materials, working out how better to describe and arrange bibliographies so as to invite students into conversation with these voices, and considering the accessibility and the diversity of the voices included.


A long, undifferentiated list of books and journal articles is likely to be very forbidding for most students – particularly those who have no experience of university-level academic study. There are, however, various things you can do to avoid that.  

  • Especially in a lengthy bibliography, it is important to identify the most relevant and helpful items, to help students know where to start; an annotated bibliography, even if the annotations are very brief, is nearly always more helpful than a bare list. Tell students why the item is on the list, and why they might choose it from all the items listed, and which bits (which pages, or which section of the video or audio recording) might be most relevant. You might want to provide a series of short lists relating to different topics in the module.  
  • Bibliographies can contain items of various levels of sophistication and depth, but you should make it easy for students to identify materials particularly appropriate to their level of study. For a Level 4 module, for instance, are there books or webpages on the list that are specifically written at an introductory level? Are there some short items that can help students orient themselves? Are there other items that you want to mark as being more suitable for those who want to take their explorations further and deeper? 
  • When creating bibliographies, you should be aware of the electronic resources available via the Common Awards Hub and elsewhere – ebooks, electronic journals, and other resources. Provided there is good support for students as they learn to access such resources, they can help students in a wide variety of contexts access a much wider range of resources than are available to them in hard copy. Most students also benefit from having access to a variety of kinds of resource – text, video, and audio; different styles and formats; different approaches and tones.  


The range of voices that students encounter in a module’s conversations matters deeply. It will shape their perceptions of whose voices count in the conversations of the church – and whose voices do not. Bibliographies should, therefore, as far as possible include a wide variety of voices – a variety of genders and of ethnicities, a variety of traditions, and people speaking from a wide range of contexts and forms of experience.  

There has been considerable research on the impact of reading list diversity (and lack of diversity) on student learning. See, for instance, this clear and well-referenced summary of the issues as they affect the teaching of philosophy. Similar issues are in play in theological education.  

We want our bibliographies to introduce students to the best and most important voices in the relevant area – but that means the voices that are best and most important for the purpose of the module. A module is meant to lead students into, and help them engage with, a rich conversation about its subject matter. Helping students from a variety of contexts and backgrounds recognise that the conversation already includes people like them is part of that invitation. Helping all students recognise that voices from a wide variety of contexts and backgrounds are already part of that conversation is also important. Having a richly diverse bibliography is therefore part of what ‘best and most important’ means in a theological education context.  

Obviously, working on the bibliography is only one part of the process of ensuring that a module leads students into a richly diverse conversation. It needs to be woven in with all the other elements of module review and development. There are, however, some specific tips that can help with bibliographies.  

  • Try to include full names, not just surnames, in your bibliographies. That can help display some of the variety of people involved. 
  • Try not to segregate your bibliography such that those who speak from privileged white Western locations are gathered at the beginning, as if they provide an approach suited to any context, and all those who speak from other contexts are gathered at the end, as if they provide only local, particular perspectives.  
  • Consider giving some contextual information about authors, such as very brief biographies for the authors of key items. It can help students recognise that these items come from real people, with identifiable contexts. It can also help display the diversity – or lack of diversity – among the voices you have included.  

Student Engagement

Amending module bibliographies is a task that benefits hugely from the involvement of students. Whether through feedback questionnaires, or discussions in class, or in a specific space on a module’s Moodle pages, or in other ways, it is worth soliciting student feedback on 

  • whether they find the bibliography inviting or forbidding, and why;  
  • the items on the bibliography that they found most useful;  
  • items that presented particular challenges, to which future cohorts might need to be alerted; 
  • items they have come across that they think could be added – particularly if they come from perspectives or contexts not yet well represented in the module;  
  • gaps that they identify, including the kinds of voices from which they would like to hear more.  

For an example of a student-led process of bibliography revision in a different discipline see this report from UCL’s Anthropology programme.