Soil & Water Conservation: An Annotated Bibliography - 3 PM EST

Subject: Soil and Water Conservation
Disciplines: Soil Science, Agronomy, Agriculture

Feedback-a-thon Time: 3:00 PM eastern

How did you decide to make this textbook?

I teach an upper-level undergraduate/lower level graduate course called Soil and Water Conservation. The textbook for the course was last printed in 2001, and at that time all three authors were emeritus. It isn’t particularly expensive (~$40), but I wanted something up-to-date. I also didn’t have time to write an entire textbook. In addition, in my field there are lots of extension materials produced by extension agents from Land Grant institutions, such as mine (Kansas State University). These are credible sources of information that are usually brief and to the point. However, they are generally copyrighted, yet still freely available online. I decided to create an annotated bibliography that organizes such sources of information into a traditional textbook format (chapters, sections, etc.) that links out to these resources.

What are you trying to achieve with this textbook?

One goal is to familiarize students with credible sources of information in their field so that they can be better able to use trustworthy information sources once they are out of college.

I also wanted to create an approachable text that facilitates the type of interactions I want in my classroom. I want to be able to assign a short reading to the students, have them actually read it, and then use most of the class period in a discussion about that reading. This is more or less a flipped classroom approach.

Lastly, I wanted this text to serve as a useful source of information for practitioners in the real world.

What have you done so far?

I started with an author and style guide, which I’ll try to attach. I have a detailed outline that is complete. I am in the process of adding citations to all parts of the detailed outline so that I can use my citation manager (Zotero) to create the bibliography. The bibliography entries will be organized into the outline by section, and then alphabetized within sections. Each bibliography entry will then be annotated (one short paragraph, ~100 words). Last fall I had students in the class contribute to the textbook by finding sources and writing annotations for the topic of their choosing. I did this based on the Rebus book “Guide to Writing Open Textbooks With Students”. I plan to complete the outlined bibliography by May. I also plan to put out requests for volunteers to write annotations for the project soon. I should note that I received a $3500 grant from K-State’s Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative to support this project, and I have an established relationship with K-State’s open textbook publisher, New Prairie Press. New Prairie Press published another open textbook of mine, and have stated they plan to publish this project once it’s complete.

Who is on your team?

I have the following people on my team:

  • A technical editor for hire
    • Most of the grant money will pay for her services
  • Students in the Soil and Water Conservation Class
    • See what have you done section above
  • Instructors of similar courses who plan to adopt this textbook once it’s complete
    • There are about 6 total that have heard of my project through word of mouth alone
    • I plan to ask them for help with writing annotations
  • New Prairie Press, and the librarians with the K-State Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship

Please share a maximum of three questions. These questions can be specific to your project or address broader open textbook themes.

  1. How should I go about trying to recruit volunteers to contribute annotations for the bibliography?
  2. One I have contributors lined up, what platform do you recommend to allow them to make edits? I am planning on creating it in Google Docs, then later moving the content into a Pressbooks project for final formatting.
  3. I figured the final textbook/annotated bibliography would be released in several formats, including a website and a PDF with hyperlinks. For this project that needs to allow people to clink links to access each of the different resources, are these the two best formats, or is there something else I should consider. Also, should the website be HTML5, or something else?

Hi Colby, welcome to the Rebus Community! Thanks for participating in this feedback-a-thon with @zoe and me, and telling us more about your Soil & Water Conservation project.

Creating an annotated bibliography that links out to pre-existing sources is a clever way to organize the different content that you are using for your course.

It’s great that you were able to recognize this at the time, and instead start on a project that was more feasible/manageable given your schedule and workload.

This sounds like an excellent goal. This approach also reminds me of Mike Caulfield’s Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers textbook – while it’s not a resource in Agriculture per se, it might be helpful as you move forward with your project here.

It’s also great to see that you’re envisioning multiple different audiences for the resource: students who can learn and also transfer these skills following graduation, but also practitioners who are already working in the real world.

Putting this all together in an approachable text will be key, and it sounds like you have a solid plan in place with your flipped classroom approach.

It’s fantastic to hear that you already have an outline in place, as well as a style guide, and experience with Zotero. How did students find writing the annotations and in so doing collaborating with you on this resource? I’m pleased that the Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students (edited by @lizmays ) was helpful with this assignment!

That’s a good section of work outlined for these next few months! Once you’re set up, you can share requests for volunteers in our Contributor Marketplace, and we’d be happy to spread the word. Congratulations also on the grant from K-State’s Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative! We’ve heard nothing but good things about the New Prairie Press, so you’re in good hands.

You have a good balance with your team: discipline or subject experts, publishing professionals, editing assistance, and also students for their invaluable input!

Coming to your questions now, at last!

I’d recommend first putting together a short project summary, and then reading through our suggestions in this recruitment guide. Building a team and soliciting collaborators on your project can happen in different ways, so hopefully this will give you a good set of options to pick and choose from.

That sounds like an excellent plan! Editing in Google Docs, especially if you are a team of authors and editors, is easier with Google’s collaborative editing features. Make sure to edit with accessibility in mind, and not just content editing. (Our editing overview contains some important other considerations when editing, which I’d suggest you read though.) And once that’s all done, you can move to Pressbooks for the final formatting.

A website and PDF formats are good starts, but we also recommend a more easily editable file (like a HTML or WXR file). As for your question about HTML, I might call on our resident tech expert @zoe to answer!

Hope this helps for now, but please do follow-up if you have more questions.


Jumping into to point to this thread (Spread the word in the Rebus Community newsletter) within the Contributor Marketplace. I keep tabs on this space as I prepare the Rebus Community Newsletter and our Twitter output. If you ever have Calls for Participation, tell me about them here. I’ll amplify your request for volunteers through our channels.


Tech expert might be pushing it, but I think any website worth its salt will do what you need it to. If you’re working with Pressbooks, it generates a website and downloadable formats, including PDF, ebooks and editable formats, so a lot of that is taken care of. Web and PDF likely will be the most useful for the extensive linking out that you’re planning, but an ebook on the right device will allow it too. Hope that helps! Let me know if you need any further info.


Thanks to all three of you for your feedback on this project. It is much appreciated.

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Our pleasure!

I wanted to note that we’ve actually developed a pathway for anyone interested in starting a new open textbook project on this platform to do so. So if you’d like a dedicated discussion space for this unique bibliography project, you can see the simple instructions in this topic: Create a New Project.

As always, if you had any questions or comments, you could let us know here or post in the Help & Questions category. Looking forward to seeing how you get along! :slight_smile: