Using Wikibooks/How To Structure A Wikibook
A well-planned book has a much higher chance of success than a book that has not been properly planned. Before you even start writing you should make some notes about what you want the book to be about, what kinds of materials it should cover, and what order it will cover those materials in.
Before you start writing anything, your book should have a definition. What is the target audience? The scope? The depth? What language is the book going to use. All books on this project, English Wikibooks, need to be written in English. However, authors have some control over whether they want to use British or American English in their books. Once a book has decided on a dialect, all the pages in that book should use that dialect to help keep the book unified. Some authors may even choose to use a different subset of English, such as e-prime or BE-850. This is something the author should decide before writing.
Create an outline for your book, either here on Wikibooks, or on paper, or even in your head. Trust us when we say that the more planning you do now, the better your book will be in the future. Having to restructure a book later is typically a long and difficult process involving page moves and lots of editing to fix links. Try your hardest to do things right the first time, and the effort will pay off.
Titles and Naming Conventions
We have a Naming Policy that tries to keep all the books and book pages on Wikibooks organized in a standard way. All book pages should have the name of the book as the prefix, followed by a forward slash, followed by the page name. For example, "My Book/My Page" is correct, "My Page" is not. Also keep in mind that other kinds of separators are not acceptable. For instance, the following are not acceptable ways to name a page in a book:
My Book:My Page My Book - My Page My Book > My Page My Book My Page
The authors of a particular wikibook often describe the structure they prefer in a local manual of style.
You have the decision about whether to make a book structure "flat" or "deep". Neither is officially preferred. We will describe both of these structures below:
If the book has a flat structure (without chapters) each page should be named as follows:
In this structure, every page is one level away from the main page of the book. This makes links easier between pages, but it means that every page in your book must have a unique page name.
If the book has a deep or "hierarchical" structure (with pages belonging to chapters) each page should be named as follows:
All pages belong to a chapter, and page names only need to be unique to the chapter, not the entire book. This is a good logical way to structure a book, but maintaining chapter pages can be tedious, and links need to be longer, which some editors might not like.
Developing books do not emerge fully-formed and in a perfect book shape. The process for creating a book can cause a book to take many forms which are not in themselves acceptable here at Wikibooks. However, so long as progress is continuous, various stages of books can not only be accepted here in the short-term, but also can be beneficial tools to book authors.
Books are large projects, and it is generally not conceivable that an author will be able to write, to completion, one page at a time in a linear fashion. In fact, it should be assumed that most authors are only transient members here at Wikibooks, and that they could abandon their work here at any time.
With this in mind, an author who wants to see their books succeed in the long-term should develop their book while attempting to maximize the ability for future authors to take over if the original author should leave suddenly. Books should start as a clear plan, such as a table of contents outline. From the outline, a page should progress to one of several intermediate forms. These intermediate forms allow a book to increase in size and information content rapidly, without needing to worry extensively about organization or formatting. After a book has expanded significantly in one of these intermediate forms, editors, revisers, and reviewers can polish the book to make it better and eventually make it a featured book. The general design pattern for a book that allows other authors to quickly and easily pick up where the original author left off is:
Warning About Intermediate Forms
Notice that intermediate forms are not considered stable or even acceptable books. If a book in an intermediate form is long abandoned, it runs a high risk of being deleted. Stubs are relatively well tolerated on Wikibooks, and a large portion of our community will resist deleting them unless they are in particularly bad shape. Macropedias are against policy, and unless a transwiki will significantly improve content at Wikipedia (which is unlikely), macropedias can be quickly deleted. Course-like books are better-tolerated than macropedias are, but they still run the risk of being transwikied to wikiversity if you don't pay close attention to them.
In short, bending some of our rules about content and structure can help a book to grow rapidly. However, these broken rules are not acceptable in the long-term. So long as a book is being actively edited and the authors realize that it needs to improve its form and structure in time, the editors at Wikibooks will be tolerant of it.
Below we will talk about various intermediate forms, and how to grow them into proper policy-compliant books.
Stubs are a page, or several pages, with only a brief amount of starter text. This starter text can often explain what the page is going to cover, and provide a small amount of introductory text that other authors can help to expand. A "good stub" should:
- Explain clearly what the page will cover
- Provide a brief introduction to the topic
- Provide an organizational framework (named headings, for instance) to help show where information should go.
Stubs that do not contain this information are likely to be more of a hindrance then a help to future authors, and should likely be deleted.
To grow a stub, there are two main options:
- Add more content, like in a content dump or import it like in a macropedia.
- Add more structure, by creating an outline.
A content dump is where a large amount of material is added to a page in a disorganized way. This is great to grow the size of a book quickly, but the content will need to be organized, ordered, and smoothed out if it's going to stay at Wikibooks for long. Many books using this method become monolithic: lots of material on a single large page. To grow these books, they should be separated into subpages, given a proper table of contents, and organized properly.
Outlines are not necessarily stubs because they do not need to contain any content. Outlines are a great way to plan and prepare a book, but a free-standing outline that has been long-abandoned by its original authors is generally not helpful or valuable. Outlines are good to get one author started. They are bad to get new authors interested. If you write an outline and aren't around to work on it, it will probably be deleted.
The outline phase of a book should be brief. Outlines should quickly be filled with at least a base amount of content so that future authors and editors have some raw material to work with. Editors need content to fix and mold into shape. Authors need clear indicators where content should be located and improved.
To grow an outline, content should be added to each page in the list explaining what the page should cover. Then, each page can expand individually, following the given guidelines.
Pages at Wikibooks can be seeded with articles imported from Wikipedia. This can be a great way to take existing information on a topic, and grow the book quickly using existing free material. Macropedias need to be extensively de-formatted (dewikified) before future authors can begin to contribute book-like content in a meaningful way. This is because Wikipedia often uses a much more dense formatting style than Wikibooks does.
To grow a macropedia, you need to remove Wikipedia-only formatting and templates, and start converting the material into an instructional narrative.
During the progression of a school course, information can be written into the book as it is received in the class. Things like lecture notes, reading notes, assignments and their solutions, and other information received through a course can be uploaded as they are learned. Course-like materials do not need to be de-formatted like wikipedia articles need to be, but they often need to be restructured, organized, and edited extensively.
To grow a course-like book, material needs to be expanded beyond simple notes into narrative prose. It also needs to be organized into a logical way, since many classes do not always proceed through subject matter in a linear fashion.
Link List or Directory
A step up from an outline is a link list. Link lists are collections of links to other books, other wikis (such as Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, or Wikisource), or other places where information about the subject can be obtained. Link lists can be helpful in organizing resources and finding places to import raw material from, but they are also very dangerous. Link lists, "Link farms" or directories are a violation of policy, and they likely will be deleted if they do not evolve quickly. If you would like to maintain a list of resources for your own use, it is typically better to do it in your own userspace where many such content policies do not apply.
To grow a link list, go to each link, gather information from there, and bring it to Wikibooks. Once you've brought the necessary information here (such as in a content dump) you can delete the list, move it into a citation, or add it to a separate bibliography page.
One of the easiest ways to keep all the pages in a book linked together, and also to maintain a unified style between pages, is to use templates. Some common templates are those at the top of the page (a page header template) and those at the bottom of the page (a page footer). These templates typically provide a link back to the table of contents, and frequently also contain links to the previous page and the next page.