From online Reading List to Charleston: a student placement

By Samantha Sherman (third year BA Classical Studies) and Talis

In summer 2022, the School of Humanities and Heritage supported Samantha Sharman, at that time a second-year Classical Studies student, to take up a placement at Talis (, an educational technology company that provides resource lists and collaborative reading tools for UK higher education institutions. In the following post, Samantha and the team at Talis share their reflections on the experience.


Project overview

Reading/resource lists are well established means by which UK academics and librarians provide students with access to materials for their studies. However, little research has been done to understand how students utilise such tools and how they are viewed by the student community, especially what students consider to be a ‘good’ resource list. We decided to ask Sam to run a research project to help us to better understand student preferences in relation to reading lists.

The project involved collaboration with the Education, Product, and Marketing teams at Talis to better understand how products are built and developed based on research, and then how they are marketed. 

Sam led the research design, ran several focus groups, analysed the data and wrote up the results. Sam was asked to present her findings to the business (40 colleagues), speak about them in a series of podcasts for The Authority File (, and also to the library community via a webinar ( The webinar was one of our most popular events of the year with over 110 librarians registering from across the world. Furthermore, Sam presented her research in collaboration with SAGE Publications at the prestigious international Charleston Libraries conference ( Project findings are also being re-written for academic publication, and being turned into various forms of product marketing for Talis.  

Talis perspective:

“Sam has helped us to better understand a crucial component of reading list adoption: student experience. This is not a widely understood or researched area at present, yet is incredibly important. This insight will provide library colleagues valuable insights and evidence to improve reading lists within their own institutions. Sam has been a valuable addition to the team, and a joy to work with. She demonstrated time and time again a critical perspective around research design, focus group facilitation, and interpretation of findings.” (Matt East, Talis)

Sam’s perspective:

I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with this project and have learned so much in my time with the Talis team. I gained a far greater understanding of product management and development. My knowledge of research methods has also been strengthened significantly through the planning and leading of focus groups, and the analysis of survey data. Additionally, I now have a better comprehension of all the work and effort that goes into producing a publication. It was a steep learning curve figuring out how to write up research findings in a publishable manner, but it’s knowledge I’m glad to have learned.

As part of the project, I was fortunate enough to attend and present at the Charleston Conference in the US. Travelling itself always pushes me out of my comfort zone, and before the project delivering a presentation in person to a room full of people would have filled me with fear. However, the chance to talk about something I am passionate about with people of a similar mindset was fantastic, and the confidence I’d gained through the project meant the presentation went better than I could have ever anticipated. Charleston was fantastic, and the city itself was amazing (as some of the pictures will show).

Moreover, having also recorded several podcast episodes on the research, attending the conference allowed me to meet in person many of those I’d only encountered online. Everyone I met was lovely, welcoming, and extremely supportive, and were largely the reason I had such a great time whilst away. Overall, the conference was a great lesson in how to present in person and highlighted how complex the world of academic publishing is.

The project was a fantastic experience, I feel very lucky to have been involved. It has left me with a significantly stronger skillset, and more ideas about my post-university career path. I’ve learnt so much during the project that it is hard to accurately convey how amazing it was to be involved in such fascinating research. It’s left me with a plethora of strong transferable skills, and the desire to investigate the topic of reading lists further.