- Comprises twenty-six sections; each represents a single lecture, and is self-contained.
- “Grew out of a course of lectures” based primarily on Atiyah and Macdonald’s book, but has been offered a number of times, and has evolved over the years, influenced by other publications and the reactions of the students.
- Exercises are integrated into the development, and complete solutions are given at the end of the book.
- Exercises are designed to provide a means for students to check, solidify, and expand their understanding of the material. The exercises are intentionally not difficult, tricky, or involved. Rarely do they introduce new techniques, although many statements are used afterwards.
- Students are encouraged to try to solve each exercise before looking up its solution. If they become stuck, then they should review the relevant material; if they remain stuck, then they should study the solution, making sure they can eventually solve the exercise on their own. However, students should read the given solution, even if they think they already know it, just to make sure; also, some exercises provide enlightening alternative solutions.
- Instructors are encouraged to examine their students, possibly orally at a blackboard, on a small randomly chosen subset of exercises that have been assigned for the students to write up in their own words over the course of the term.