Skip to Main Content

Free Educational Resources for Students and Tutors: Understanding Textbooks

Structure of A Textbook


This is a comparison between a page in a textbook (right) and a page in a novel or essay (left). Textbooks have a unique structure to help you better understand their subjects, which includes:


  1.  A "Tree Structure" that includes:


           An actual textbook looks like this:

Or this: 

Each part of this structure has elements that organize information into:

  • bite sized chunks 
  • in a logical order

So that you can better understand it.


      2. The beginning of each book has a:

Table of contents:

It outlines all of the topics in the book and can be used to determine the relationships between them. 


      3.  Each chapter has: 

Openers: These are at the start of each chapter. They help you better understand the content. Openers can include: 

  • A table of contents or outline
  • Summarization or bullet list of chapter learning objectives
  • Focus questions for you to think about when reading the chapter
  • Case problems


Learning Devices: These are used in the chapter to distinguish between different knowledge you are required to learn. They also highlight some knowledge . These can include:

  • Headings
  • Bolded words
  • Illustrations and photos of concepts
  • Tables and graphics
  • Tips for learners
  • Case studies
  • Debates and reflections


Closers: These come at the end of the chapter and help you summarize, review and practice what you've learned. Closers can include:

  • Chapter summaries
  • Review problems and exercises
  • List of definitions


4. The end of the book has a:

Glossary: Definitions of important words/concepts in the book. It can be used to determine what are important concepts that book wants you to know.