2 Diverse and Inclusive Representation in OER

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind to ensure that the content of your OER is both diverse and inclusive. For more information about what diversity and inclusion mean, you can read BCcampus’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion statement.

A note about diversity: The term “diversity” refers to the variety of experiences and attributes held by people across all walks of life. No one thing or person is “diverse.” There are no “diverse individuals.” Diversity must always be evaluated on a collective level.

Citational Practices

Consider what authors, researchers, and organizations you are citing. Where possible, aim to diversify your references. Seek out specific efforts and programs that drive inclusive citation, such as Cite Black Women. This may be easier in some disciplines than others, but try to identify specific opportunities in your discipline, and partner with your editors and teams to potentially engage with academic organizations focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in your field.

Examples and Exercises

Ensure that diverse contexts are included, all examples are comprehensible by everyone, and stereotypes are avoided.

  1. Use examples that include a variety of people, organizations, geographies, and situations.
  2. Use real-world scenarios that address diverse situations and contexts.
  3. Avoid negative stereotypes or sensitive subjects in problems and applications unless the subject matter demands it.
  4. Do not make assumptions about prior knowledge, especially around culturally specific examples. For example, not all students may be familiar with Western nursery rhymes or kids’ television from the 1990s.

Illustrations and Photos

Ensure images throughout the resource reflect diversity and consider the intersectionality and context of the depiction (for example, is anything perpetuating a stereotype or does the context/setting indicate anything negative).

  1. Consider the quantity of images and illustrations, and the individuals and populations represented therein.
  2. Consider the role, depiction, connotation, and purpose of the people represented and the context that you are using the image in.

Resource: A list of openly licensed image collections that include people of various genders, skin tones, abilities, etc.

Key Figures in a Field

When discussing historical, pioneering, or current researchers or studies in the field, recognize contributions from people of all backgrounds.

  1. Seek diversity in key figures.
  2. Avoid isolating marginalized figures to specific sections (for example, multiculturalism).
  3. Where historical figures are not diverse, include current figures from the underrepresented groups.


Ensure that people’s names used in examples, exercises, and scenarios represent various countries of origin, ethnicities, and genders. Ensure that names with particular ethnic or origin associations are portrayed respectfully and accurately; avoid negative comparisons or stereotypes associated with particular national origins or ethnicities.

  1. Include diverse names representing various national origins, ethnicities, genders, etc.
  2. Avoid stereotypes associated with certain names or names that present in a certain way.

Resource: Popular Names from Around the World


Gender is a spectrum and gender diversity is something that should be reflected in OER. This means using gender-neutral language, using examples that reflect gender diversity, and using people’s correct pronouns.

  1. Use a variety of pronouns, including gender-neutral pronouns, for the people included in examples, exercises, and scenarios.
  2. When referring to a real person, ensure that you are using their correct pronouns. If unsure, this information can often be found by checking their website or Twitter bio or just by asking.
  3. When referring to a non-identified individual, use the singular “they” rather than “he/she.” (For example: A student should ask their teacher about the preferred citation style.)

Terminology and Language

Ensure that all references to people, groups, populations, categories, conditions, and disabilities use the appropriate terminology and do not contain any derogatory, colloquial, inappropriate, or otherwise incorrect language.

For historical uses that should remain in place, consider adding context, such as “a widely used term at the time.” Ensure that quotations or paraphrases using outdated terms are attributed, contextualized, and rare.

  1. Replace any outdated, incorrect, or offensive terminology. If needed for historical references or direct quotations, insert context, attribution, and/or quotations.
  2. Recognize that appropriate terminology is changing all the time, and do your best to use current terms.
  3. Avoid idioms or colloquialisms that may lead to confusion or misunderstanding.

Resource: Inclusive & Antiracist Writing Resources [PDF]. This document was created by SFU Library Student Learning Commons. It includes specific inclusive writing strategies and definitions for terms relating to race, gender, sexuality, and disability.

Resource: Trans Journalist Association Style Guide. This style guide was written to support reporters, editors and other media makers in improving trans coverage. Although focusing on news reporting, much of it is relevant to OER.

Additional Resources

Text Attributions


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