Reading Experience Database

Frequently Asked Questions

Searching and Browsing
Technical Questions and Difficulties




Searching and Browsing

General tips for searching and browsing:

  • To better understand the way in which the data appears in the search functions, please look at our Contribution Form and attached Notes.
  • We are in the process of standardising our data.  Until we are able to present it in a standard bibliographical form, please be aware that you may have to try alternative spellings and forms of names (e.g. Shakespeare/Shakespear; Austen/Austin; Genlis/ de Genlis; Goethe/ Von Goethe). If you are interested in an author or reader who used a pseudonym or was known by both single and married names, try both (e.g. Mary Arnold/ Mrs Humphry Ward; Mary Godwin/ Mary Shelley; George Eliot/ Marian Eliot; Horace/Quintus Horatius Flaccus).
  • Try also variant titles (e.g. Bible, The Bible, Bible, The), or parts of works (e.g. New Testament).
  • Try both names of individual poems (e.g. “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”) and collections of poetry (“Lyrical Ballads”).
  • Try both name of article or review, and name of serial/periodical (e.g. “Review of Night and Day” and “Times Literary Supplement”).
  • Try searching by name of a genre, as well as the specific title of a text (e.g. if you wanted to find out whether someone had read Jane Austen’s Persuasion, try searching “novels” as well as “Persuasion”; if you wanted to find out about reading of Shakespeare, try “plays” and “drama” as well as “As You Like It” and “Othello”; try “newspaper” as well as “Morning Star”).
  • Try both general and specific religious groups (eg. Christianity and Evangelical, Church of England and Anglican, Muslim and Islamic).
  • Try also “unknown” and “anon” – we are still in the process of identifying some authors/readers/texts.  If you can put a name to an anonymous or unknown entry, please contact us! In addition, where there are numerous authors who contributed to one text, such as a collection of essays or periodical, this has been acknowledged with the term "various" as the author of the text.
  • Sometimes we know that an individual or group read the works of a particular author but we do not know the exact titles. You can widen your search to include these entries by entering the names of authors, unaccompanied by titles, in the appropriate boxes.
  • The Basic Search is a keyword search across all fields of data.  To narrow your search, try using the Advanced Search.
  • Individual records in the database are linked for ease of browsing and searching via hyperlinks. If, through general searching you find a reader or an author of interest, you can click on the reader's or author's name for a full list of other texts that reader read, or other readers who read works by that author.


Using the advanced search:

The following is a list of helpful hints for using the new advanced search to help you perform useful, targeted searches.


  • Please complete as many or as few fields as you need to answer your research question. There is no limit to the number of fields that can be completed on the advanced search form. But please note that the more fields completed, the fewer results will be returned.
  • We have combined the ability to look for general keywords while also using some specified criteria in order to limit the number of results. The first field in the search form allows you to search for any keyword that might appear in the evidence of the reading experience. By evidence, we mean the quotation of description which gives an account of the reading experience. The evidence is entered by contributors in section 1.2 of the RED form. The keyword search on the advanced search form only searches the evidence of the reading experience because all other text fields on the RED form will be made available for searching individually on the same page.
  • If you are searching for a particular reader, for example, William Wordsworth, remember to use the tick boxes beneath the text box in order to include those entries where William Wordsworth was listening to a text being read aloud or participating in a reading group.
  • In fields in the advanced search form which contain radio (round) buttons, only option can be selected.
  • In fields with tick (square) boxes, there is no limit to the number of options that can be selected. The search will return entries containing at least one of the tick boxes selected. For example, under genre/ subject matter of the text being read, if you select poetry, fiction and drama, the search will return records that contain all three of these options as well as records containing just fiction or poetry or drama, and records which have one of these in conjunction with another (ie. fiction and essay/criticism).
  • If you have made a mistake in selecting your search criteria, you can use the 'reset' button at the bottom of the advanced search form to erase your current search details and start again.


Why can’t I find a well-known example of someone’s reading?

The Reading Experience Database is not exhaustive.  We may not yet have covered the reading of the individual in whom you are interested.  Why not contribute material?  This will help to make the resource more useful for everyone.


Why does the same piece of evidence come up more than once, sometimes several times, when I do a keyword search?

In order to make the data fully searchable, the same piece of evidence sometimes functions in several different ways (e.g. it may give the names of several different readers, or authors, or texts being read). For each different piece of information, the piece of evidence has to be entered separately.  Try using the Advanced Search to minimise the occurrences of repeated evidence.


Can I specify the number of records displayed in the results table?

Yes you can. Simply click on the down arrow next to the Number of Records per page (above the first search criterion on the Advanced Search page). You can choose to display from 10 to 1000 records per page.


I want to order my results - how should I do this?

To order the sequence in which results appear, click on one of the headings in the results table. Results will then be ordered by that criterion. For example, by clicking on 'century of experience', results will be ordered by the century in which the reading experience occurred, the earliest century appearing first. Similarly, by clicking on 'name of reader', 'name of author' or 'title of text', results will be ordered alphabetically.


What should I do if I spot a mistake in the data?

Please inform the RED team, using the Contact Us link in the menu at the top of the page, and citing the ID number of the RED entry (e.g. ID 1345).


My search returned too many hits for me to look through.  What should I do?

Try using the Advanced Search form to narrow your search by selecting a more specific criteria.


Creating marked lists and exporting records:

After an advanced search or browsing, when the results page appears, it is possible to create a marked list of records in which you are interested. Tick the relevant boxes in the column on the far left of the results table. Next, click 'my list' at the top of the column to view the list of records you have created. To select all records on the page, put a tick in the box next to 'my list'. Note: only marked records from that page of results will be displayed. If the results from your search are displayed on more than one page, we suggest that at the beginning of your search, you specify a larger number of results per page. (This option can be found above the first search criterion on the Advanced Search Page.)


After you create a marked list, you can export these records. On the page entitled 'Your Marked List', you can create a pdf file of your chosen records. Although these are displayed in short form in your list, in the pdf the full records will appear. You will find the option to create a pdf at the top of your list. Once you have created the pdf, you can either print this immediately, or you can save a copy to your hard drive, a memory stick or any other device you use. This can then be attached to an email or printed later. Be mindful of the environment: do not print more than you need!

Additional information:


I want to cite the Reading Experience Database in my work – how should I do this?

A method for citation is provided for each individual record, with the source details for the reading experience. Generally, it follows this pattern: source, RED website address, record ID. We suggest that you copy and paste the citation provided in each individual record.


Do I need copyright permission in order to quote evidences of reading from the database?

No. For academic research there is no need to apply for specific copyright permission, but we do ask that you use the citation method provided for each individual entry. Copyright of the Reading Experience Database (RED) belongs to The Open University (UK). Access is provided solely for the purposes of research, teaching, private study, and general interest. Prior written permission is required for any alteration or redistribution of the database, or a substantial portion thereof in any form, including electronic; prior written permission is also required for any commercial exploitation of the database’s contents.


Why can’t I find out what I want to know on your FAQ page?

We are constantly expanding the FAQ page – please send us your question and we will do our best to answer it.




What is a Reading Experience?

For our purposes, a ‘reading experience’ means a recorded engagement with a written or printed text - beyond the mere fact of possession. We are keen to gather evidence of all sorts of reading, not only books but also newspapers, journals, posters, advertisements, magazines, letters, scripts, playbills, tickets, chapbooks and almanacs. We include the compilation of Books of Hours, commonplace books, etc. and the experience of reading aloud.


What is excluded from the Reading Experience Database?

For the moment we do not include library catalogues, professional public readings such as Dickens’s; fictional depictions, illustrations or photographs of reading; the reading of music; theatre or cinema attendance; readings over the radio; the reading of private correspondence, or theories of reading.


What evidence can I use?

Common types of evidence include diaries entries and letters describing reading, annotations, marginalia, autobiographies, memoirs, commonplaces books, biographies, witness statements, court records, census reports and interviews by social investigators.  If you are in doubt as to the relevance or status of evidence, please contact us.


Can I use evidence from a secondary source?

Yes.  Please cite this source properly, and include any references (footnotes, endnotes, editorial commentary) that mentions primary source material.


I recently contributed material to the Reading Experience Database, but I cannot find it when I search.

All material submitted to the database has to be verified and edited before it is released to the live system.  Your entry is probably currently undergoing the editing procedure.  Please check back soon.


I have contributed material to the Reading Experience Database via the online form and have just realised that there is a mistake in the data I submitted.

We would be very grateful if you would let us know about any mistakes you make in the form. Please contact us. When submitting data an acknowledgement of your contribution is sent to the email address you provide. This email contains a record ID number unique to that entry. It would be helpful if you could quote that ID number in any correspondence relating to that entry.



Technical Questions and Difficulties

Can I create a list of marked records?

Yes - for further instructions, please see section above.


Can I export records by e-mail?

You can create a pdf of marked entries which you can then print, save to a storage device or save and attach to an email.


Can I print individual records?

Yes – simply right-click on your mouse or touchpad, scroll down and select ‘print’. Alternatively you can use the shortcut key on your computer (usually Ctrl+p). This should print out a copy of an individual record. Because of formatting, bear in mind that this may be more than one page.


Can I save individual records?

Yes – simply click on ‘file’ in the top left corner of the browser window, scroll down, and select ‘Save as’. This will save the record as an individual HTM file, and can be viewed using Internet Explorer.


When searching, instead of results appearing, I am presented with an error message. What should I try next?

We may be adding updates to the site at that particular time. Please wait for a few hours and try searching again. If the error message continues to appear please use our feedback form. We will try to answer your query and fix the problem as soon as possible.


I have contributed material to the Reading Experience Database via the online form but so far have not received an email acknowledging the receipt of my data.

All entries submitted to the database are acknowledged by email. If you have not received an acknowledgement from us, it may be because your spam filters in your mailbox are set too high. If, after checking your filters and junk mail, you are still not receiving emails acknowledging your contribution, please contact us.



Reading Experience Database version 2.0.  Page updated: 27th Apr 2016  3:15pm (GMT)