A professor at Tulane University (Photo by Tulane Public Relations)

Every college professor at every institution of higher education has his or her own way of choosing which textbooks, if any, to use for the courses that he or she teaches each semester. There are several factors that go into these decisions each and every year. According to the “Dear Professor/Dear Student” blog on the Brigham Young University website, the following is a list of 8 questions that many college professors ask themselves before making decisions on which course materials to use:

1) Does the book’s content match the learning objectives for the course? In other words, is the book appropriate for how the course will be taught and what kinds of assignments will be given?

2) Is the book’s presentation style consistent with how I think students would most consistently learn? Every textbook is designed differently, but some books have a layout that makes it easier to comprehend certain information using charts, graphs, or summaries to along with the narrative text.

3) Do the problems in each chapter provide good learning experiences for the students? What kinds of questions does the book ask throughout or at the end of each chapter, and how relevant are they to the actual material in the book?

4) Do students like the presentation in the textbook (layout, figures, etc.)? Is the book engaging? This is generally determined over time. Professors will get feedback on course materials from students to gauge their thoughts on certain books. This will help a professor decide whether to use the same or similar books in future courses.

5) Is the textbook reasonably free from gross typographical and other errors? If a book is laden with these kinds of things, it will be highly unlikely that a professor would use it. However, books printed by larger publishers are generally edited and proofread numerous times before they become available on the market.

6) Is the cost reasonable? Professors do pay attention to the prices of textbooks. If a professor is able to find a cheaper book that is just as meaningful and comprehensive, he or she will consider using that one instead. But if a textbook fits well into a course to the point where there are no other options, the professor will likely choose that book, even if it is a bit on the expensive side.

7) Do other professors like the textbook as well? (If they do, students are more likely to be able to resell it.) Professors should share books with their colleagues to find out what they think of certain books instead of only making the decision by themselves.

8) Does the publisher use a reasonable time frame between new editions? (If the publisher changes editions too frequently, students have trouble reselling the book. If the publisher changes too infrequently, the material can get out of date.)