Creating OER in Pressbooks

8 Planning Your Project

Before you begin your OER project, consider not only the scope and sequence of the project—what subject matter to include, and in what order—but also how to organize the material.[1] How many parts, or units, will your book include, and how many chapters? How will you structure the chapters? What recurring elements will you include in the chapters—introductions (like this one), learning objectives, glossary terms, chapter reviews, formative assessments, and so on?

In this chapter, you will learn how to plan the structure of your OER, including how to create a well-organized and consistent final product even if you are reusing and remixing material from different sources.

For an example of project plans, download the guidelines for creating this guide, which include a statement on the purpose of the guide, a description of chapter structure and boilerplate language, an outline, and style guide.

Outlining Your Project

Textbook developers typically create project outlines and sample chapters or units before writing begins. These plans help the developers flesh out not just the scope, sequence, and structure of the project, but also the tone and complexity of the language to be used in the book.

Similarly, before you begin writing, create an outline that details the topics to be covered in your project and how they will be organized in a table of contents. Consider the type of students who will use your book and the course level and program for which it is intended; these considerations will affect how you organize material (e.g., in smaller or larger chunks) as well as the tone of the book.

Outlining the Main Body of the Book

Here are questions to ask as you outline the main body of your book.

  • How will the main body be divided? Will the chapters be grouped into units?
  • Will chapters be divided into sections? Including chapter sections in the table of contents can make it easier for students and other instructors who might use your book to see its contents at a glance and navigate it.
  • Will numbers and/or titles be used to identify parts, units, chapters, and chapter sections? Include these in the outline; they of course can be changed in later drafts, but establishing working titles helps as you organize your project.
  • How long should the book be? You might estimate the word count for the entire book and then break this number down into individual chapters. Or you might estimate the number of chapters you want in your book as well as a per-chapter word count.

Designing the Chapter Structure

Next, consider the structure, style, and length for each chapter and chapter section. Decide what elements to incorporate, such as the following:

  • Learning objectives or outcomes for each unit, chapter, or chapter section
  • Chapter introduction
  • Exercises, essay questions, practice quizzes, or other methods for the student to self-test during reading or for the instructor to use for grading
  • Key terms, highlighted and defined throughout the book; these may be summarized in a glossary placed in the back matter
  • Chapter-end summary or list of key points or key takeaways
  • Suggested/additional reading lists at the end of each chapter or in the back matter
  • Resources: photos, illustrations, diagrams, graphs, charts, tables
    • Consider how these will be labeled, numbered, and/or captioned.
    • Also consider whether these items will be original creations or retrieved from external sources.
  • Multimedia: videos and audio clips
    • Consider whether these will be embedded or if links will be provided.
    • Also consider how elements will be labeled, numbered, and captioned. Will transcripts of any audio clips be provided to ensure accessibility?

Writing a sample chapter is a great way to sort out the answers to these questions as you plan your project.

Front and Back Matter

In your plan, also decide what elements to include in the front and back matter of your book. The front matter is the material that appears before the main body of the text and in a typical book includes such elements as a title page, copyright page, table of contents, and introduction. Pressbooks sets up some of this front matter for you, including the copyright page and table of contents. The back matter is the material that appears after the main body of the text and can include such elements as appendices, a glossary, a bibliography, and/or an index.

"" For information on creating front and back matter in Pressbooks, see the chapters Create and Edit Front Matter and Create and Edit Back Matter in the Pressbooks User Guide.

Adapting Material for Your Project

When you use OER, you can adapt resources according to the needs of your curriculum, instead of building your curriculum around a particular textbook. Maybe you’ve found an open textbook that you’d like to use for a course, but you want to make revisions, such as updating some of the material, swapping out some chapters for a few of your own, or adding formative assessments. According to the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide, you might adapt an open textbook in order to

  • Address a particular teaching style or learning style
  • Adjust for a different grade or course level
  • Adapt for a different discipline
  • Accommodate a different learning environment
  • Address diversity needs
  • Meet a cultural preference
  • Meet a regional or national preference
  • Address a school, district, or institution’s standardized curriculum
  • Make the material more accessible for people with disabilities
  • Add material contributed by students or material suggested by students
  • Translate the material into another language
  • Correct errors or inaccuracies
  • Update the book with current information
  • Add more media or links to other resources
  • Use only a portion of the book for a course[2]

As your facility with adapting OER grows (the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide advises starting small), you might decide to adapt material from several different sources for your project. This guide is an example of a remix of this type, including chapters adapted from more than a half-dozen different sources.

In either case, planning ahead will help you to ensure that the final product is coherent and consistent in terms of structure, language, and style.

Consistent Structure

Review and assess the structure of any resources that you plan to adapt. In the case of adapting one resource for your use, you’ll want to be sure that any additions you make are consistent with the original. In the case of adapting material from several different sources, you’ll want to be sure that your remix is consistent from unit to unit, chapter to chapter, and so on.

As you review resources for adaptation, take note of the following:

  • Does each chapter contain recurring features such as learning objectives, exercises, summaries, suggested readings, highlighted points of interest, or etc.?
  • How long are the chapters in terms of both the average and the range of the word count?
  • How are headings used? Are subheadings used? What is the highest heading level used?
  • How long on average are the sections under each type of heading or subheading?
  • Are lists included? If so, are bullets or numbers used to separate items, or is something else used?

Consistent Language

Looking more closely, assess the word choice, syntax, and tone of any resources that you plan to adapt. As you review the resource or resources, take note of the following:

  • Is the tone formal, or friendly and conversational?
  • How does the author address the reader? From a distance? Or does the author include the reader with phrases such as “we learn” and “you will see”?
  • Is the diction relatively straightforward or is the language dense with academic and domain-specific vocabulary? How is domain-specific vocabulary treated; are these terms glossed or explained within the text, or is it assumed that readers are already familiar with them?
  • How long and complex is the typical sentence? How long is the typical paragraph?

Consistent Style

In publishing, style has a specific meaning in addition to its more general and familiar meaning having to do with qualities of language, custom, or technique. In publishing, style refers to considerations having to do with the capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and display of text. Questions of style often have to do less with correctness than with preference and consistency; for example, will serial commas be used—“the cat, dog, and horse” rather than “the cat, dog and horse”? Neither choice is more correct than the other, but a choice should be made so that the publication overall is consistent.

A publisher might select a style guide to follow, such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and then create a style sheet either to establish a house style or to capture the style of a particular project or series. In the case of adapting one resource for your use, it’s probably best to adapt the style of the original resource for your project. In the case of adapting material from several different sources, you might adapt the style of the most-used resource for the project as a whole, or you might apply the style you prefer, if you have a preference.

The BCcampus Open Education Self-Publishing Guide includes an appendix listing the elements of style to consider. Additionally, the following elements of a book require special consideration.

How are resources used?

Resources refer to all items other than text, such as photos, graphs, diagrams, and multimedia content. When adapting material, pay attention to what types of resources are used, how often they are inserted, and how they are labeled. Ensure all that external resources are either released with an open license or in the public domain. Also, consider the following:

  • What information is included in the captions that accompany resources?
  • How is attribution information provided for reused and redistributed resources?
  • How are figures and tables labeled, numbered, and differentiated (e.g., Figure 1.2 or Table 1.2)?

How are references cited and listed?

In any resources that you review for adaptation, identify the citation style as well as how and where references are listed (e.g., at the end of each chapter, at the end of the book, or as footnotes). Note how in-text citations are used, including their punctuation. As noted above, in the case of adapting one resource for your use, it’s probably best to adapt the citation style of the original. In the case of adapting material from several different sources, you have more latitude, but it may be easiest simply to adapt the style of the most-used resource for your project.

For more information on planning your OER project, see The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far), produced by the Rebus Community.

  1. Parts of this chapter are excerpted and adapted from Textbook Outline in the BCcampus Open Education Self-Publishing Guide and Make a Plan in the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide, both by Lauri M. Aesoph and both published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Substantial revisions have been made in accord with the style, structure, and audience of this guide.
  2. This list is excerpted from Reasons to Adapt an Open Textbook in the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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CUNY Pressbooks Guide Copyright © 2022 by Andrew McKinney; Rachael Nevins; and Elizabeth Arestyl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.