Wikibooks:Textbook development process

This is still very much of a proposed set of Guidelines. As Wikitext gains some experience and material, they will become better organized, more explicit, and clearer. You can help with that process by editing this page.

The development and maintenance of a useful textbook can be an open and collaborative process. The applied use made of the resulting book can also be open and unrestricted. But the book itself cannot be. Even an on-line or electronic book must have stability to be useful. It must present a complete and structured view of the subject domain, with an instructive pattern that exposes the elements of that domain to the reader. This can only happen within a Wiki kind of project if there is more of a structure on book projects than there is on the Wikipedia itself. This guideline is intended to provide an overview of that structure.

Each book is treated as an ongoing project, whose goal is to produce the next version of a useful text. To accomplish this there are ultimately up to three concurrent versions of a book:

  1. The static or completed or released book (an edition).
  2. The structured and edited (but incomplete) next edition (Beta or alpha version).
  3. The scratchpad or draft version of element revisions, new elements, etc. destined for a future edition.

Wikitext Projects edit

A new text, or a major revision, starts with a definition of the book to be produced. The first step to creating a wikitext is to create this definition. The definition includes the:

  • Scope defines of the domain to be covered.
  • Audience defines the target reader or user and also implies the level of material included.
  • Textbook Methodology defines any specific technique to be used throughout (e.g. Interactive Programmed Instruction or Classroom Supplement with Exercises).
  • Prerequisites defines any preliminary material that is generally to be excluded or given only summary treatment. For example, a book on Modeling and Simulation in Physics could include or exclude topics on Linear Programming or Distributed Multiprocessing.

Table of Contents edit

The next step is to create the Table of Contents. This is much more important in texts than in the Encyclopedia because it lets anyone working on a topic know what has come before them. Ideally, this is firmed up and adjusted in an iterative process before too much detail work on elements. The suggested way to do this is to create the first shell for each element (Part, Chapter, Section) next by writing the introduction for that element. A good introduction tells the student what will be covered, how it relates to what has gone before, and any specific prerequisite knowledge. Seeing how these fit together may cause changes to the TOC, etc.

Templates edit

Next, or concurrent with the TOC, the writers and editors will develop a set of templates for Parts, Chapters, Sections, Exercises, etc.

Templates that are created for one book should be mentioned in that book's local manual of style. (Eventually those templates will be categorized in the Category:Book specific templates hierarchy).

You may also find some general-purpose templates useful. For example, many books use the {{prerequisite}} template, the {{Wikiversity}} template, the many category:box Templates, various category:page formatting templates -- especially the various category:quotation templates.

Glossary and Appendices edit

If the text contains these they should be started early so that format and type of content are visible to everyone working on any element.

The Promotion Process edit

When an area or section of the text becomes both complete and stable enough, it is promoted to a frozen level, with a status of 'alpha'. While it may still be altered in the development area, the only changes expected here are those to integrate pages with each other. Any changes needed should be made to the working area page and then it is re-promoted. When an edition is virtually completed at Alpha, its primary developers will plan on a date for release and begin its preparation as Beta status material. This phase is marked by some unique handling of the material, analogous to proofreading in the paper publishing world or quality assurance in software development.

  • Changes might be needed here but excluded from the active (Wiki) pages. These will be mostly in the areas of internal links, examples, glossary, etc.
  • A unique edition is being created. So emphasis shifts to internal flow, cohesion, completeness. There should be no open internal links.

See also edit