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Common themes

In order for students to utilise content notes in the most effective way, they should be specific and clearly refer to the nature of the content being discussed, read or presented.

Whether or not to provide a content note for any given material is often a common-sense issue, particularly in the case of graphic imagery or description. We've provided a non-exhaustive list of themes which are likely to need content notes:

  • rape and sexual assault
  • physical violence, abuse and torture
  • emotional abuse, such as gaslighting and coercion (particularly in the context of intimate partner violence)
  • child abuse of any kind
  • paedophilia
  • death (especially when distressing, violent, the result of murder or suicide, etc)
  • representations of mental health issues such as self-harm, obsessive-compulsive disorder and disordered eating (especially when represented in detail or in a graphic way)
  • explicitly sexual / pornographic content
  • abortion and miscarriage
  • animal abuse and cruelty
  • illness, particularly terminal and/or commonly traumatic illness such as cancer
  • gore, blood and body horror
  • substance abuse and addiction
  • discrimination / bigotry of any kind: racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, etc (this might include specific warnings for slurs or specific incidences such as violent hate crime, or might simply flag the presence of these themes - discussed or represented - within the material)


Be specific

It is often useful to expand slightly on the content present, in order to be as specific as possible. For example, a text which mentions sexual assault but does not go into particular detail might be tagged "content note: mentions of sexual assault", while a text with detailed graphic scenes might be tagged "content note: graphic descriptions of sexual assault".

General themes of racism, for example, might be present in many texts; it's still important to provide a content note, but it's even more crucial to warn specifically for descriptions or representations of violent incidents of racism, racial slurs, etc.


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