AGU recently introduced a new series to its books portfolio. Advanced textbooks are designed to support upper undergraduate- and graduate-level courses, bridging the gap between the fundamentals and critical analysis, and containing a variety of materials to support teaching and learning. I asked Summers Scholl, Executive Editor for Physical Sciences at Wiley, to explain how advanced textbooks are distinct from other types of textbooks and to provide some advice for people thinking of writing a textbook. I also asked her about recently published and forthcoming titles in the series.
What are the main characteristics of advanced textbooks?
Advanced textbooks support courses for upper undergraduate, graduate, and even post-graduate students. Rather than present emerging trends or cutting-edge science, they enable students to understand and engage with primary literature of the field. They tread a line between conceptual understanding and critical thinking. AGU’s portfolio, which covers topics across the breadth of Earth and space sciences, includes textbooks that empower students to explore scientific and societal challenges facing our planet, humanity, and the environment.
What advice do you have for someone thinking of writing an advanced textbook?
Writing an advanced textbook is a great opportunity to influence how concepts are taught and visualized in the scientific story. You can have a lasting impact on a new generation of scientists, contribute to the canon of thought leadership, and writing a textbook carries professional prestige.
Think about the upper undergraduate- and graduate-level courses you teach, or a new course you would like to create. Do these courses have a primary resource to ground the lectures? If not, this is the ideal motivation to write an advanced textbook. The structure of the course can provide the outline for the book chapters, and you can include additional pedagogical content.
What are some of the essential things to think about when preparing an advanced textbook proposal?
One important thing to consider is whether you would like to write the book alone or to collaborate with a colleague. It’s important that there is a consistent ‘voice’ through the whole volume, which is more difficult to achieve with a large group of writers. For this reason, advanced textbooks tend to be written by one or two people, or occasionally a small team, depending on the areas of expertise needed. Writing a book solo is a substantial commitment that should not be underestimated.
Some level of knowledge is assumed in students taking advanced courses but, since the levels of courses vary around the world, it’s useful to think about the prerequisites needed to understand the content of your book. What foundational courses should students have already taken? What concepts or techniques should they already be familiar with?
Another thing to consider is how you would like readers to engage with the material in the book. Advanced courses tend not to have extensive Learning Management Systems as seen in introductory textbooks (such as interactive test banks, adaptive learning components, etc.), but we encourage advanced textbooks to contain pedagogical features for both students and instructors. These may include, but are not limited to, problem sets, a solutions manual for instructors, learning objectives, conceptual section headings, illustrated or solved examples, learning outcomes, key concepts, and case studies.
What advanced textbooks have been published to date and what else is in the pipeline?
So far, four books have been published in the AGU Advanced Textbook Series, and already you can see the broad swath of AGU topics.
- Remote Sensing Physics: An Introduction to Observing Earth from Space examines the underlying physical principles and techniques used to make remote measurements, along with the algorithms used to extract geophysical information from those measurements.
- Geology and Mineralogy of Gemstones presents the basic mineralogical and geological knowledge needed to understand gemstones and examines the characteristics and geological origins of many different types of gemstone.
- Geomorphology and Natural Hazards: Understanding Landscape Change for Disaster Mitigation explores the natural hazards resulting from landscape change and shows how an Earth Science perspective can inform hazard mitigation and disaster impact reduction.
- Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources: Techniques for Reservoir Engineering Analysis covers the geochemistry, petrophysics, geomechanics, and economics of unconventional shale oil plays, using a step-by-step approach to demonstrate industry-standard workflows for calculating resource volume and optimizing the extraction process.
The next book to be published in the Advanced Textbook Series will be Data Analysis and Modeling Metrics, which will be a useful resource for students across all physical and natural sciences. It explores different methods of data processing and key concepts such as uncertainty, comparison, and visualization, drawing on data from real geophysical observations.
In the coming year or so we will be publishing more advanced textbooks on topics including groundwater dynamics, rock physics, natural hazards, salt basins, atmospheric optics, mudstone sedimentology, and computation in seismology.
What should people do if they have a textbook idea or want to buy or use a textbook?
We welcome advanced textbook proposals in any fields of Earth and space sciences. To discuss your idea please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are ready to write a proposal, please refer to these guidelines.
You can find published books on Wiley.com. If you are interested in adopting an existing advanced textbook for a course that you teach, click on “Request Digital Evaluation Copy” on the product page of your book of interest.