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:
You can develop this structure further by adding different elements of a textbook.
Elements should be consistent throughout your book. For example:
As you start fleshing out your textbook outline by including new elements, you may find the overarching structure is modified as well.
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:
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.
The body is the main content of your textbook. Common elements include:
Chapter sections and subsections are made up of additional elements, such as:
While you’re shaping the body of your textbook, consider:
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:
The back matter is the content at the end of your textbook that supplements the main text. Common elements include:
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 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:
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:
For example, each chapter in a textbook could have the following standard structure that utilises openers and closer:
You can use openers and closers for chapters and chapter sections. For example:
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:
By the time you’re finishing building your outline, your textbook’s structure should look something like this:
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.
Schneider, D. K. (2008, September 3). Textbook writing tutorial. EduTech Wiki. Retrieved March 4, 2018, from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Textbook_writing_tutorial