What do students really want from a textbook?

It’s that time of year again, the leaves are turning glorious russet colours, the excitement of the summer festivals is all but behind us and we’re all getting ready to knuckle down to another academic year.

Figuring out what to spend the student loan on in terms of books to help with studying is always a bit of a challenge. Academic books are often, by their very nature, at the bigger end of the budget and it can be hard at the beginning of a course to know if that essential reading ‘set text’ is really going to give you everything you need for the coming year.

We had a chat to some students to find out what Policy Press books they found most helpful during their studies…

Melissa Emmerson USE THIS ONEMelissa Emmerson used Social work and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people by Julie Fish when studying for her BA (Hons) in Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire. She says:

“I found the case studies in Social work and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people enabled clarification and contextualisation of the subject.

I look for clear presentation of chapters with titles, case studies and study points/activities. Additionally I look for a book with a reasonable font size and style; if it is too small I generally won’t use it due to the amount of research and the strain on my eyes. Line spacing is important so I can use sentence markers.”

Rebecca Regler photoRebecca Regler, also studying BA (Hons) in Social Work, at Ruskin College, used Child protection: Managing conflict, hostility and aggression by Siobhan Laird. She says:

“I found the psycho-social theories of conflict and aggression very helpful when critically analysing behaviour within both my practice as a student on placements and also within my essays.

The book explored conflict within child protection practice in a multi-dimensional way including the implicit and explicit nature of power dynamics within multi-agency working. The summaries at the end of each chapter entitled ‘points for practice’ were useful as they concluded the main points in a clear and concise way. It used complex ideas but they were presented in a way which was accessible and understandable.”

I find that case studies are beneficial in textbooks as they provide practical examples of how theories can be applied to practice. The case studies which I find the most useful are those in which are relevant to the reality of social work practice in its current challenging context as opposed to an idealistic or outdated perspective.”

Mark Dobson USE THIS ONEMark Dobson, currently a postgraduate research student at the University of Reading, used The future of development by Josef Esteva, Salvatore Babones and Philipp Babcicky on the Development Geographies: Asian and African Realities module at Kingston University London. He says:

“I appreciated the quality of empirical and factual evidence (e.g. statistics from a wide variety of sources such as international organisations such as WDI, UN, FAO, UNDP, WHO etc.) used to develop the core argument that ‘Development’ as it has been practiced over the last 60 years is not what it seems at face value and has actually caused more damage than good.

I found particularly useful the mix between outlining the history of (under)development in a critical fashion with the introduction of key theorists such as Ivan Illich and concepts such as ‘Buen Vivir’ (“the state of living well”). The book is excellent in debunking the way that development is measured using GDP and highlights the fallacy of conflating economic growth along Western lines (through neoliberalism and free markets) with development.

The book explains that no current measure of development is fully fit for purpose because they lack sensitivity to, for example, social inequality that remains hidden behind the statistics. The authors scrutinise the development statistics by introducing a change in perspective and argue for a radical abandonment of development and move towards a grassroots reclamation of the collective commons.

Generally, I like textbooks that make a specific argument and provide a new insight into a concept (like Development) because they strike me as an original contribution and provide arguments that I have not come across in other academic work on the subject.”

Alexandra Chapman photo USE THIS ONEAlexandra Chapman, has just graduated from the University of Ulster, and used Paul Spicker’s Social policy: Theory and practice (3rd edition) for most of the modules on a Social Policy undergraduate course. She says:

“I was able to use Spicker’s book for various modules, which emphasises its overall importance and contribution to social policy as a whole and to the undertaking of this specific degree.

Part one, ‘Social policy and society’ reviews welfare inequalities and responses and provides a rounded and readable study of social issues which helped particularly in the first year of my degree.

Spicker also includes a well detailed glossary which made finding specific terms/topics convenient. Reviewing case studies and questions for discussion were also very beneficial, as it broke down certain topics making them easier to understand.”

For more info on Policy Press textbooks please take a look at the section on our website here. Inspection copies are also available for lecturers leading a relevant course.

Report by Jessica Miles and Rebecca Megson

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