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Open Educational Resources Collective Publishing Workflow

Write, Revise or Curate Content

The Writing Process

There are three ways you can author an open textbook:

A few tips for writing with a team:

  • bring everyone together at the beginning of the project if possible
  • brainstorm topics and concepts as a group to define scope and give everyone a voice in the overall product
  • work together to identify learning objectives, key terms and potential resources
  • divide the work by defining roles.

Whether you’re a solo author or part of a writing team, it’s important to plan ahead. Strategies for remaining organised throughout the writing process could include:

  • writing a detailed outline that lays out a clear structure or skeleton for your textbook
  • identifying potential areas of overlap in your outline to reduce the need for substantive editing later on
  • preparing an author guide with:
    • style guide
    • chapter template
    • model chapter
    • licensing information
    • author expectations (about accessibility and inclusive design, non-textual elements, modular content)
    • details on writing tools
    • submission and contact information

Example author guides:
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduction to North American Archaeology

  • keeping a tracking sheet (like this one created by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde) so you know the status of your content creation and remembering to document any third-party content you use
  • staying in constant communication with your team about introductions, outline discussions, unit assessments, deadline adjustments, etc.
  • building a list of FAQs to share with existing and new team members
  • being clear about the timing and process of next steps, including editing, proofreading, review, formatting, etc.

Writing Roles

Some roles members of your writing team might adopt are:

  • writer – drafts content with a consist voice and tone
  • curator – finds or makes supplemental resources requested by the writer(s)
  • archivist – documents resources used in the book, manages assets, checks attribution and provides captions.

For publishing roles, see Manage and Allocate Writing and Publishing Tasks and Identify What Publishing Support Will Be Needed.

Writing the First Draft


  • begin with defining learning objectives and key terms
  • decide on key terms and vocabulary early in the drafting process to help with consistency throughout the textbook
  • get your ideas drafted quickly, without formatting
  • don’t worry about headings, graphics or other issues
  • there will be time to proofread, copyedit and format the book later
  • keep a list of materials you’d like to include in the book, but haven’t found yet.

Best Practice for Writing, Revising and Curating Content

While you’re drafting your textbook, you’ll need to consider:

  • Tone – What tone will you use to present your content (e.g. formal, conversational, etc.)?
  • Tense – Which tense will you use? (past or present)
  • Consistency – Tone and tense should remain consistent, so if you’re adapting an existing open textbook, you’ll need to match the original tone and style.
  • Quality – Readers will judge your textbook on its quality, so it’s a good idea to adopt a style guide and dictionary with clear guidelines for spelling and grammar. If you have funding for your project, you may also want to employ an editor.

Accessibility will be covered in more detail in the Design stage of this workflow, but some things you can do to make your writing accessible are:

  • use heading styles in your documents to create a consistent hierarchy
  • consider reading levels of the audience and adjust your tone accordingly
  • spell acronyms out in full during their first use in each chapter
  • include alt. text for functional images
  • use meaningful link text (rather than words and phrases like ‘click here’)
  • prepare clear tables with appropriate header information and captions.

A few general underlying principles for writing, revising and curating content:

  • Keep the audience in mind – You should have a clear understanding of your textbook’s readers, including type of students, course level and program. This will direct the tone and complexity of your writing, and hopefully result in a more useful, engaging textbook
  • Make your book accessible and inclusive – Your book should meet the needs of all students, without extra effort on their part. Students should also be able to see themselves and their life experiences reflected in the content.
  • Build for adaptability – Create content that is easily adaptable and modular. For example, keep context specific examples in blocks that can be swapped out for localised content (e.g. discussion of national policies, course or institution specific information, etc.) and be clear about licences and attributions of different elements in the resource (e.g. images, excerpts, videos, etc.).
  • Think ahead – Lay the groundwork for future tasks while you write. For example, creating and maintaining a book-specific style sheet, keeping track of citations in each chapter for your reference list and keeping track of third-party content to simplify copyright checking.
  • Creation can be iterative – The first release doesn’t need to include everything. Content can be expanded on, revised and improved over time. Start with the core concepts, and then add case studies, media, quizzes, assignments, question banks and slide decks.
  • Model good practices – Use your author guide and model chapter to show authors how to incorporate accessibility, structure content in modules (for potential adapters), track glossary terms, properly tag key concepts, and enter citations.
  • Get support from others – Get input from library staff, instructional designers, potential adopters and students so the finished book is effective and valuable.


Adapted from:

Writing Process’ and ‘Writing Recommendations’ in Authoring Open Textbooks by Melissa Falldin and Karen Lauritsen, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Textbook Outline’ in Self-Publishing Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Authoring and Content Creation Summary’ and ‘Authoring and Content Creation Overview’ in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.