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Open Educational Resources Collective Publishing Workflow

Develop Book Structure

Structuring Your Textbook

Planning the structure of your textbook will help you create consistent, repeatable and expected content for students, which provides a better learning experience. It also allows you to consistently frame how the content will be taught.

Most textbooks follow the basic structure:

  • front matter or introductory content
  • body or main content, including –
  • parts
  • chapters
  • back matter or supplementary content at the end of the book.

You can develop this structure further by adding different elements of a textbook.

Elements of a Textbook

Elements should be consistent throughout your book. For example:

  • Do you have a case study that can be used for each unit or chapter?
  • If you only have one case study, can it become a chapter in itself or does it belong in the appendices?

As you start fleshing out your textbook outline by including new elements, you may find the overarching structure is modified as well.

Front Matter

The front matter is the introductory section of your textbook. If you’re using an authoring platform such as Pressbooks, the system will set up some of these sections for you, including a copyright page and a table of contents.

Below is a list of common elements found in a textbook’s front matter, in the order they usually appear:

  • title page
  • verso/copyright page
  • dedication
  • table of contents
  • about the authors
  • list of figures or tables
  • foreword
  • preface
  • acknowledgements
  • introduction.

While textbooks should have most of these elements, not every textbook will have all of them, so you only need to include the ones you think are relevant.

Body

The body is the main content of your textbook. Common elements include:

‚óŹ parts/units

  • chapters
    • sections
    • subsections.

Chapter sections and subsections are made up of additional elements, such as:

  • headings
  • titles
  • objectives
  • overview
  • introduction
  • body
  • graphs
  • images
  • tables
  • maps
  • sidebars
  • key terms
  • vocabulary terms
  • practice questions
  • examples
  • answer keys
  • key takeaways
  • summary
  • conclusion
  • case studies
  • quizzes.

While you’re shaping the body of your textbook, consider:

  • whether you’ll divide the body into units or parts
  • what sections your chapters will include
  • whether you’ll use numbers or titles to label parts, units, chapters and chapter sections
  • how long the textbook and each of the chapters will be.

Remember to include the labels for all units, parts, chapters, and sections in your textbook outline, as well as in your table of contents.

Next, consider the layout, style and length of each chapter and chapter section. Decide what elements to incorporate such as:

  • learning objectives or outcomes that align with the textbook content – typically identified at the beginning of each unit, chapter or chapter section
  • chapter introduction
  • exercises, essay questions, practice quizzes or other methods for students to test their understanding during reading or for instructors to use for grading
  • key terms – highlighted and defined throughout the textbook (or in a glossary placed in the back matter)
  • end of chapter summary or list of key points or takeaways
  • recommended reading lists at the end of each chapter (or in the back matter)
  • resources (photos, illustrations, diagrams, graphs, charts, tables, etc.), how they’ll be labelled, numbered and captioned, and whether you’ll create them or retrieve them from external sources
  • multimedia (videos, audio, etc.), whether these will be linked or embedded, how they’ll be labelled, numbered and captioned, how you’ll make them accessible (e.g. transcripts) and adaptable (e.g. editable files).

Back Matter

The back matter is the content at the end of your textbook that supplements the main text. Common elements include:

  • appendices
  • glossary
  • references or bibliography
  • index
  • ancillary materials.

Elements of a Textbook Chapter

Chapter elements for textbooks are different from other types of books, providing structure, context, overview, motivation, review and other functions that facilitate learning.

The three elements that help structure chapter content in textbooks are:

  • openers
  • closers
  • integrated pedagogical devices (Schneider, 2008).

Openers

Openers are elements at the beginning of a chapter that lead students into the main content. They can provide motivation, an understanding of the structure of the content, or a summary of what is to come. For example, chapter openers could include:

  • a banner image
  • learning objectives
  • introduction
  • focus questions
  • chapter summary.

Closers

Closers are elements at the end of a chapter that help students summarise, review or practice what they've learned. Examples of chapter closers include:

  • review problems
  • chapter summary
  • links to external resources.

For example, each chapter in a textbook could have the following standard structure that utilises openers and closer:

Chapter structure diagram showing openers and closers

Chapter structure diagram from ‘Developing a Textbook Structure’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

You can use openers and closers for chapters and chapter sections. For example:

Chapter structure diagram showing openers and closers

Chapter structure diagram from ‘Developing a Textbook Structure’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Integrated Pedagogical Devices

Integrated pedagogical devices are elements used to assist learning. These devices use design to differentiate each element, separating them from the rest of the content and making them recognisable through consistent use in each chapter, section, etc.

For example, each chapter in a mathematics textbook might have:

  • a ‘Biography’ element that highlights the biography and accomplishments of a famous mathematician
  • a ‘Case Study’ element that illustrates the concepts by describing a real-world application
  • vocabulary words in bold
  • illustration of geometric figures
  • graphs.

Developing Your Final Textbook Structure

By the time you’re finishing building your outline, your textbook’s structure should look something like this:

  • cover
  • front matter
    • title page
    • verso/copyright page
    • dedication
    • table of contents
    • about the authors
    • list of figures or tables o foreword
    • preface
    • acknowledgements
    • introduction.
  • body
    • parts/units
      • chapters
        • sections
          • subsections.
  • back matter
    • appendices
    • glossary
    • references or bibliography
    • index
    • ancillary materials.

Textbook elements provide context and structure, and can play a role in motivating learners, helping them reflect, and extending their understanding. Consistent use of structural elements throughout a textbook lessens the cognitive load on students by making the content more easily recognisable, which in turn aids learning.

References

Schneider, D. K. (2008, September 3). Textbook writing tutorial. EduTech Wiki. Retrieved March 4, 2018, from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Textbook_writing_tutorial

Attributions 

Adapted from:

Defining Content Structure’ and ‘Defining Element Structure’ in Authoring Open Textbooks by Melissa Falldin and Karen Lauritsen, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Developing a Textbook Structure’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.