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Diversifying reading lists

We want to support the University's focus on equality, diversity and inclusion by making sure that the resources we ask students to read cover a wide range of perspectives.

Why is diversifying reading lists important?

Academia tends to be dominated by the work of white, English-speaking, European or Northern American scholars, due to the historical power of these groups, so we have to take steps to promote other viewpoints.

We want students to evaluate a wide variety of perspectives to help them develop critical thinking, and we want to show students that they can contribute to their discipline, by using and valuing the work of scholars who are like them.

Students have long recognised that their reading lists are skewed towards a Eurocentric understanding of the world. I still remember my frustration looking at my reading list for a course I took during my undergraduate degree entitled ‘The state and politics in Africa’. The course started directly with a discussion of the colonial era, providing us with no insights on pre-colonial Africa as if the continent’s political history started with the arrival of European powers. To make things worse, the reading list contained almost exclusively Western authors.

El Kadi, T.H. (2019, March 15). How diverse is your reading list? (probably not very..). GP Opinion.

Audit of reading lists at Leeds Trinity

In Autumn 2021, we carried out a sample audit of 10 modules across different programmes and academic levels, using an audit tool developed by Manchester Metropolitan University.  

Key findings were: 

  • Only 5.6% of authors were identifiably from ethnically diverse backgrounds
  • 45.7% of authors were identified as female 
  • Only one work in the sample originated in the global South, with the UK and USA overwhelmingly dominant as places of publication 

This is broadly similar to findings at other universities. 

The Library team is working with the Office for Institutional Equity and specific discipline areas to audit reading list diversity and assist academic colleagues to identify more diverse content where this is required.  

What makes a text 'diverse'?

Diversity is in the content of the work, but the author's characteristics - such as gender, ethnicity (including race, religion and nationality), sexuality, class, disability, or neurodivergence - may influence how likely a work is to contain diverse perspectives.

Tips for diversifying your reading list

Try to find texts by underrepresented author groups

  • Add keywords such as 'diverse', 'international', 'global', 'ethnic' or 'minority' to your search terms on Library Search. You can use asterisks to find multiple word endings. For example, ethnic* to find ethnic, ethnicity, ethnicities, and ethnically.
  • Search the ProQuest Diversity Collection, which focuses on ethnic, minority, and native presses, grassroots newspapers and magazines, plus journals, news and newsletters focusing on gender and sexuality

More sources of diverse texts are listed on the Library's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion page

Include a wide variety of resources

It's generally easier to find journal articles, book chapters, or videos by underrepresented authors than it is to find whole books, as the barrier to creation is lower. 

How you frame and discuss the texts is important too

  • Use author's full names rather than initials, to avoid 'hiding' clues about their gender or ethnicity
  • Use pictures of all authors when discussing their work in class 
  • Discuss the influence that the author's background or society's norms have on all texts, not just 'diverse' ones

Examples of good practice

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