The Basic Parts of a Hardback Textbook
Previewing your textbook before reading it is simply one of the smartest things you can do. You may be surprised by the helpful efforts made by the author of your textbook. Nowadays, smart writers want the text, and especially its content, to meet your learning style. If you only turn to the assigned readings, you are likely to miss the bonuses installed in the book to make the readings more manageable. First, and foremost, you need to know the basic parts of your textbook.
There are three types of books used in academia:
Browsing books which are designed to first "catch the reader's eye," then allow for sporadic, disconnected readings. The reader "browses" the subject for purposes of intellectual curiosity.
Continuous reading books are typical of traditional textbooks. They are designed to inform in a systematic manner and generally begin by introducing concepts and continue on to more involved or complex discussions.
Reference books must be designed for easy retrieval of particular information.
The following lists the general contents of college textbooks. Sometimes the order of the listed areas will vary. Your job is to know where and what it is in your specific books.
Fly leaf (fly page)
This page faces the endsheet (which is glued to the book cover). This page is thicker and far more durable than the other pages in your book. Usually blank, this page is excellent for writing down basic formulas or fundamental notes which you will need again and again as you study from the book.
The information on this page is fairly consistent. It contains the full title of the book, the edition, the name of the author, the author's academic affiliation (where the author was teacher when the book was written), and the book's publisher. If there is more than one author, all their names will appear on this page.
The book's copyright information is located prominently on this page. Copyright indicates the intellectual ownership of the book's content. There is often a paragraph explain who has the legal right to copy pages from the book. You will also find the Library of Congress call number, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
The preface is an introductory statement written by the author or authors specifically to the reader. The preface gives the author's reason and purpose for writing the book, and may include a summary of problems encountered while writing the book. The preface also attempts to describe the reader; for whom the book is meant. This should not be confused with the forward. The forward (sometimes spelled foreward) contains remarks about the book, usually written by someone other than the author.
The introduction, like the preface, is by the author. However, here the author tells the reader what the book is about and how it should or might be used. For example, the author might indicate that experienced readers should begin with section two or that it is better to read the work through before attempting the exercises. If this is a second or subsequent edition, this where the author explains the changes and improvements.
This page, when it is included, is meant for the friends, family and colleagues of the author(s). This section is usually comprised of a paragraph thanking various people for their assistance, contribution and time in helping with the writing and publishing of the book.
Table of Contents
Basically an outline of the book, the table of contents lists the book's organization. This section demonstrates if the book is written in chapters, sections or units. Nowadays there may be two tables of contents; a brief and an expanded. The expanded is comprehensive and may breakdown the organization of the chapters. Essentially, the table of contents lists all the content focused text of the book.
The index is a thoughtful list of words and topics taken from the text of the book. Written in alphabetical order, and organized so that it also reflects sub-topics, the index gives you an idea of the book's subject matter. Each word is followed by the page or multiple page numbers of every instance the word (or topic) appears in a meaningful context.
Textbooks often contain photographs, illustrations, visual aids (graphs, charts, tables, etc.) and other specifically designed non text material. These images were all created by someone, probably other than the author(s). The credits page lists the artists, photographers, designers and creators of the book's visuals. The visuals are considered intellectual property and ownership must be documented; that is the purpose of the credits page... a documentation of intellectual property rights for the book's non-text media.
The glossary is a small dictionary designed specifically from the words or key terms used in the textbook. The definitions are only for the specialized usage in the book. Listed in alphabetical order, each entry is called a gloss. There is no set standard for how thorough the definition should be so some glossaries include pronunciation and the pages where the gloss is found in the text. Other glossaries only give the definition.
Some textbooks have more than one appendix (plural appendixes or appendices) depending on the book's discipline. An appendix is a page or pages that contain a variety of information that is related to the book's topic, but not relegated to one specific chapter. For example, history books will often have maps and copies of important charters or treaties in appendixes. Math books will have a table of logarithms, and chemistry books contain the periodic table and other material.
Even though one, two or more authors write a textbook, the author does not make up the text. The information comes from many other places... called sources. A textbook author must list all of the books, articles, recordings, and other printed sources, that were used in the writing of the textbook. Whenever the author repeats or borrows from a source, and writes that information in the textbook, the original title and author of the source is listed in a section called references.
Authors read tremendous amounts of material when writing textbooks. The bibliography is a list of all the material read, that the author learned from, or contributed to his own ideas that are written in the book. Unlike the references, the bibliography does list works that were cited directly by the author, but instead indicates the bulk of knowledge acquired while researching for the book's content.
Last update 02/01/03
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