The SAGE Scholars designed a survey to look at various aspects of pre-arrival reading by Undergraduates. General questions such as: ‘Did you recieve a pre-arrival reading list?’ were then followed by more qualatitive questionning. For example students were able to write as much as they wanted for: ‘How did you go about finding books for your course?’ The survey recieved an impressive 106 responses from many different schools of study and what follows is the analysis of these responses:
Most respondents are aged below 20, the best represented age group were aged 18 or under. This is probably because most students starting undergraduate courses are aged 18 so it is likely to be an accurate representation of undergraduates.
Question 2: In which subject area are you studying?
Many subject areas are not represented in this survey but students from a wide range of subject areas did participate, making the spread quite broad and equal. Psychology students were the largest group to participate with 14 respondents; ‘Business, management and Finance’ had 9 participants which is also a reasonably high percentage of respondents. It is useful for us to receive respondents from such an eclectic range of subject areas because it provides us with a better understanding of the whole student body.
Question 3: Did you recieve a pre-arrival reading list?
Survey results show that the majority of participants did not receive their pre-arrival reading list before they started the course.
Question 3a: Did you use it?
Almost 80% of those who did receive the pre-arrival reading list (42 participants) stated that they have also used it.
Question 3a.i: How did you decide which books to buy from the list?
The majority of students has either bought all books from the list or have chosen the books that were relevant to their course. The price of the book(s) was also important. Some have considered buying books only if they were not available at the university library. Under »other« participants have specified that they have bought only the ‘core’ book of their course or that they have inspected the list and bought the books they thought might be relevant.
Question 3a.ii: Why did you decide not to use it?
The most common response to why the student decided not to use the list/not to buy books was that they did not want to buy the books before the course has started. Necessity, price, library availability and online availability were equally represented. Under ‘other’ participants explained that they did not buy books because they were not listed as recommended reading, making them ‘useless’ for their course.
Question 3b: (After answering “no” to receiving a pre-arrival reading list) Did you try to get books for your course anyway?
The majority (41 people) of the 64 people who answered this question gave “no” as their answer. The 23 people (35.9% of the sample) who answered “yes” to the question above were led to question 3b.i to analyse how this minority tried to get books for the course in other ways –
Question 3b.i: How did you go about this?
Question 3b.i gave those sampled a chance to write personal experiences with no limitation on word limit resulting in detailed, qualitative answers. Whilst this question took longer to analyse, common answers could be identified and I used Tagcrowd.com to display the most frequently used answers.
Using Amazon was the most frequent answer given (8 people), followed by using a library (6 people) and then emailing the university/ex-students (4 people) for pre-arrival reading suggestions.
The 41 people (64.1% of answers to 3b) who answered no to trying to get pre-arrival books were taken to question 3b.ii –
Question 3b.ii: Why did you decide not to?
Those sampled were given 7 possible answers and were able to select more than one from the list given. Results are represented in the column graph below:
The most frequent answers given showed that people did not want to buy books before the course started and instead use the library on arrival. The expense of the books was another popular answer given and as these answers are taken from those who did not receive a pre-arrival list, people may not have wanted to invest money in potentially irrelevant books. “Other” represented 11 answers and people were asked to specify what they meant by this. The answers support common concerns such as possibly investing in the wrong books, not knowing exactly which books to get and, in some cases, being unsure about course chosen before arrival (and thus not buying books beforehand).
As well or instead of doing the suggested readings provided by the subject areas prior to arrival, 48.1% of respondents prepared themselves in another ways.
Rather than doing specific readings, students seemed to have prepared themselves with everyday
habits such as reading newspapers and watching television shows. 10.9% did read E-books prior to arrival which may have been a resource suggested to them by their course. Those who selected ‘Other’ said that they re-read A-level text-books, watched relevant Youtube videos of lectures, went to university open days and read online journals.
There is quite an even split between those who wished that they had done more preparatory reading before they had started their course, this may show that subject schools should do more to encourage students to feel more prepared for starting their course.
Question 6: What else do you think would be helpful in preparing for your course?
43 responses were given to this question and fell broadly into the 6 groups below:
Of the 18 people that gave a response relating to reading lists, 9 would have found a pre-arrival reading list helpful; 4 would have liked the lists to be more accurate with comments such as “giving us a reading list of books we would actually use in the course – I only have used 1 out of 18”; 4 wanted wider reading on the list; 1 person wanted simpler introductory texts on the list and 1 respondent would have liked the reading list earlier so that they could “spend longer forming initial perspectives on individual texts/looking into related context”.
8 people (19%) gave answers related to study skills, such as:
“Reminding yourself of main essay writing techniques from A-Level”
“Guide to referencing”
“Skills books on how to study law”
“Help on how to structure essays and assignments”
8 people would have found other information relating to the syllabus and submission dates helpful in preparing for their course.
5 people would have liked a more practical approach with 2 wanting to meet other students beforehand, 2 wanting introductory sessions or tasters and 1 wanting “personal classes”.
2 people would have found a background in the subject helpful (specifically an a-level).
1 person would have found a book deal helpful when buying items together, explaining that “these books are prohibitively expensive when purchased individually!”