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How to Write a Textbook in Ten Easy Steps

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Interactive Approaches to Teaching Materials Fundamentals

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.673.1 - 23.673.12



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Paper Authors


Barry Dupen Indiana University Purdue University, Fort Wayne

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Dr. Dupen is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). He has nine years’ experience as a metallurgist, materials engineer, and materials laboratory manager in the automotive industry. His primary interests lie in materials engineering, mechanics, and engineering technology education. He is also an experienced contra dance caller.

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How to Write a Textbook in Ten Easy StepsAbstractStrength of Materials is the most difficult course in the first two years of the Mechanical, Civil,and Architectural Engineering Technology programs at ____; consequently it has the highestdrop and fail rate. In the past decade, the failure rate in our Strength courses has ranged from 18to 30% each semester, under three different professors, using the same algebra-based textbook.Students have trouble using algebra...they prefer to plug numbers into canned equations. TheCivil and Architectural students struggle with unit conversions. Although professors provideoffice hours during the day, most students work on homework in the evening, and report that theexplanations in the text are insufficient, too wordy, or too difficult to understand at midnight. Aroot cause of these problems is the editing process; most textbooks are edited for technicalcontent by other professors, so they are technically excellent. However, they are not edited forunderstandability by the target audience, so many undergraduates find them difficult tounderstand.To solve these and other problems, I spent a sabbatical writing a new Strength textbook forEngineering Technology students. Each semester, these students submit editorial changes, forextra credit. Feedback must be both specific and actionable: “this chapter is confusing” does notmeet the criteria, whereas “I don't understand how to solve the moment in Example 6, page 45”meets both criteria. A student may not know what to change, but can easily identify the confusingparts of a text. The book is free, available as a pdf on the course website, and is updated on anongoing basis.This paper discusses the writing process, delivery via pdf instead of print, selection of topicsrequiring extra emphasis, editing assistance from students, and the improvement in learningoutcomes. Although the topic of the book was Strength of Materials, this paper discussestechniques that can be applied to a variety of undergraduate engineering textbook topics.

Dupen, B. (2013, June), How to Write a Textbook in Ten Easy Steps Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19687

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