Collaborative and Group Writing

Introduction

When it comes to collaborative writing, people often have diametrically opposed ideas. Academics in the sciences often write multi-authored articles that depend on sharing their expertise. Many thrive on the social interaction that collaborative writing enables. Composition scholars Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford enjoyed co-authoring so much that they devoted their career to studying it. For others, however, collaborative writing evokes the memories of group projects gone wrong and inequitable work distribution.

Whatever your prior opinions about collaborative writing, we’re here to tell you that this style of composition may benefit your writing process and may help you produce writing that is cogent and compelling. At its best, collaborative writing can help to slow down the writing process, since it necessitates conversation, planning with group members, and more deliberate revising. A study described in Helen Dale’s “The Influence of Coauthoring on the Writing Process” shows that less experienced writers behave more like experts when they engage in collaborative writing. Students working on collaborative writing projects have said that their collaborative writing process involved more brainstorming, discussion, and diverse opinions from group members. Some even said that collaborative writing entailed less of an individual time commitment than solo papers.

Although collaborative writing implies that every part of a collaborative writing project involves working cooperatively with co-author(s), in practice collaborative writing often includes individual work. In what follows, we’ll walk you through the collaborative writing process, which we’ve divided into three parts: planning, drafting, and revising. As you consider how you’ll structure the writing process for your particular project, think about the expertise and disposition of your co-author(s), your project’s due date, the amount of time that you can devote to the project, and any other relevant factors. For more information about the various types of co-authorship systems you might employ, see “Strategies for Effective Collaborative Manuscript Development in Interdisciplinary Science Teams,” which outlines five different “author-management systems.”

The Collaborative Writing Process

Planning includes everything that is done before writing. In collaborative writing, this is a particularly important step since it’s crucial that all members of a team agree about the basic elements of the project and the logistics that will govern the project’s completion.Collaborative writing—by its very definition—requires more communication than individual work since almost all co-authored projects oblige participants to come to an agreement about what should be written and how to do this writing. And careful communication at the planning stage is usually critical to the creation of a strong collaborative paper. We would recommend assigning team members roles. Ensure that you know who will be initially drafting each section, who will be revising and editing these sections, who will be responsible for confirming that all team members complete their jobs, and who will be submitting the finished project.

Drafting refers to the process of actually writing the paper. We’ve called this part of the process drafting instead of writing to highlight the recursive nature of crafting a compelling paper since strong writing projects are often the product of several rounds of drafts. At this point in the writing process, you’ll need to make a choice: will you write together, individually, or in some combination of these two modes?

Individually

Revising is the final stage in the writing process. It will occur after a draft (either of a particular section or the entire paper) has been written. Revising, for most writing projects, will need to go beyond making line-edits that revise at the sentence-level. Instead, you’ll want to thoroughly consider all aspects of the draft in order to create a version of it that satisfies each member of the team. For more information about revision, check out our Writer’s Handbook page about revising longer papers .Even if your team has drafted the paper individually, we would recommend coming together to discuss revisions. Revising together and making choices about how to improve the draft—either online or in-person— is a good way to build consensus among group members since you’ll all need to agree on the changes you make.After you’ve discussed the revisions as a group, you’ll need to how you want to complete these revisions. Just like in the drafting stage above, you can choose to write together or individually.

Person A writes a section Person B gives suggestions for revision on this section Person A edits the section based on these suggestions

Person A writes a section The entire team meets and gives suggestions for revision on this section Person B edits the section based on these suggestions

Think through the strengths of your co-authoring team and choose a system that will work for your needs.

Suggestions for Efficient and Harmonious Collaborative Writing

Establish ground rules.

Although it can be tempting to jump right into your project—especially when you have limited time—establishing ground rules right from the beginning will help your group navigate the writing process. Conflicts and issues will inevitably arise in during the course of many long-term project. Knowing how you’ll navigate issues before they appear will help to smooth out these wrinkles. For example, you may also want to establish who will be responsible for checking in with authors if they don’t seem to be completing tasks assigned to them by their due dates. You may also want to decide how you will adjudicate disagreements. Will the majority rule? Do you want to hold out for full consensus? Establishing some ground rules will ensure that expectations are clear and that all members of the team are involved in the decision-making process.

Respect your co-author(s)

Everyone has their strengths. If you can recognize this, you’ll be able to harness your co-author(s) assets to write the best paper possible. It can be easy to write someone off if they’re not initially pulling their weight, but this type of attitude can be cancerous to a positive group mindset. Instead, check in with your co-author(s) and figure out how each one can best contribute to the group’s effort.

Be willing to argue

Arguing (respectfully!) with the other members of your writing group is a good thing because it means that you are expressing your deeply held beliefs with your co-author(s). While you don’t need to fight your team members about every feeling you have (after all, group work has to involve compromise!), if there are ideas that you feel strongly about—communicate them and encourage other members of your group to do the same even if they conflict with others’ viewpoints.

Schedule synchronous meetings

While you may be tempted to figure out group work purely by email, there’s really no substitute for talking through ideas with your co-author(s) face-to-face—even if you’re looking at your teammates face through the computer. At the beginning of your project, get a few synchronous meetings on the books in advance of your deadlines so that you can make sure that you’re able to have clear lines of communication throughout the writing process.

Use word processing software that enables collaboration

Sending lots of Word document drafts back-and-forth over email can get tiring and chaotic. Instead, we would recommend using word processing software that allows online collaboration. Right now, we like Google Docs for this since it’s free, easy to use, allows many authors to edit the same document, and has robust collaboration tools like chat and commenting.

Dale, Helen. “The Influence of Coauthoring on the Writing Process.” Journal of Teaching Writing , vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 65-79.

Lunsford, Andrea A., and Lisa Ede.  Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice . Bedford St. Martin, 2011.

Oliver, Samantha K., et al. “Strategies for Effective Collaborative Manuscript Development in Interdisciplinary Science Teams.”  Ecosphere , vol. 9, no. 4, Apr. 2018, pp. 1–13., doi:10.1002/ecs2.2206.

process collaborative writing

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Developing a Thesis Statement

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Generating Ideas for Your Paper Introductions Paragraphing Developing Strategic Transitions Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Developing Strategic Transitions

Finishing your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Group Writing

What this handout is about.

Whether in the academic world or the business world, all of us are likely to participate in some form of group writing—an undergraduate group project for a class, a collaborative research paper or grant proposal, or a report produced by a business team. Writing in a group can have many benefits: multiple brains are better than one, both for generating ideas and for getting a job done. However, working in a group can sometimes be stressful because there are various opinions and writing styles to incorporate into one final product that pleases everyone. This handout will offer an overview of the collaborative process, strategies for writing successfully together, and tips for avoiding common pitfalls. It will also include links to some other handouts that may be especially helpful as your group moves through the writing process.

Disclaimer and disclosure

As this is a group writing handout, several Writing Center coaches worked together to create it. No coaches were harmed in this process; however, we did experience both the pros and the cons of the collaborative process. We have personally tested the various methods for sharing files and scheduling meetings that are described here. However, these are only our suggestions; we do not advocate any particular service or site.

The spectrum of collaboration in group writing

All writing can be considered collaborative in a sense, though we often don’t think of it that way. It would be truly surprising to find an author whose writing, even if it was completed independently, had not been influenced at some point by discussions with friends or colleagues. The range of possible collaboration varies from a group of co-authors who go through each portion of the writing process together, writing as a group with one voice, to a group with a primary author who does the majority of the work and then receives comments or edits from the co-authors.

A diagram illustrating the spectrum of collaboration in group writing with "more in-person collaboration" on the left and "less in-person collaboration" on the right.

Group projects for classes should usually fall towards the middle to left side of this diagram, with group members contributing roughly equally. However, in collaborations on research projects, the level of involvement of the various group members may vary widely. The key to success in either case is to be clear about group member responsibilities and expectations and to give credit (authorship) to members who contribute an appropriate amount. It may be useful to credit each group member for their various contributions.

Overview of steps of the collaborative process

Here we outline the steps of the collaborative process. You can use these questions to focus your thinking at each stage.

  • Share ideas and brainstorm together.
  • Formulate a draft thesis or argument .
  • Think about your assignment and the final product. What should it look like? What is its purpose? Who is the intended audience ?
  • Decide together who will write which parts of the paper/project.
  • What will the final product look like?
  • Arrange meetings: How often will the group or subsets of the group meet? When and where will the group meet? If the group doesn’t meet in person, how will information be shared?
  • Scheduling: What is the deadline for the final product? What are the deadlines for drafts?
  • How will the group find appropriate sources (books, journal articles, newspaper articles, visual media, trustworthy websites, interviews)? If the group will be creating data by conducting research, how will that process work?
  • Who will read and process the information found? This task again may be done by all members or divided up amongst members so that each person becomes the expert in one area and then teaches the rest of the group.
  • Think critically about the sources and their contributions to your topic. Which evidence should you include or exclude? Do you need more sources?
  • Analyze the data. How will you interpret your findings? What is the best way to present any relevant information to your readers-should you include pictures, graphs, tables, and charts, or just written text?
  • Note that brainstorming the main points of your paper as a group is helpful, even if separate parts of the writing are assigned to individuals. You’ll want to be sure that everyone agrees on the central ideas.
  • Where does your individual writing fit into the whole document?
  • Writing together may not be feasible for longer assignments or papers with coauthors at different universities, and it can be time-consuming. However, writing together does ensure that the finished document has one cohesive voice.
  • Talk about how the writing session should go BEFORE you get started. What goals do you have? How will you approach the writing task at hand?
  • Many people find it helpful to get all of the ideas down on paper in a rough form before discussing exact phrasing.
  • Remember that everyone has a different writing style! The most important thing is that your sentences be clear to readers.
  • If your group has drafted parts of the document separately, merge your ideas together into a single document first, then focus on meshing the styles. The first concern is to create a coherent product with a logical flow of ideas. Then the stylistic differences of the individual portions must be smoothed over.
  • Revise the ideas and structure of the paper before worrying about smaller, sentence-level errors (like problems with punctuation, grammar, or word choice). Is the argument clear? Is the evidence presented in a logical order? Do the transitions connect the ideas effectively?
  • Proofreading: Check for typos, spelling errors, punctuation problems, formatting issues, and grammatical mistakes. Reading the paper aloud is a very helpful strategy at this point.

Helpful collaborative writing strategies

Attitude counts for a lot.

Group work can be challenging at times, but a little enthusiasm can go a long way to helping the momentum of the group. Keep in mind that working in a group provides a unique opportunity to see how other people write; as you learn about their writing processes and strategies, you can reflect on your own. Working in a group inherently involves some level of negotiation, which will also facilitate your ability to skillfully work with others in the future.

Remember that respect goes along way! Group members will bring different skill sets and various amounts and types of background knowledge to the table. Show your fellow writers respect by listening carefully, talking to share your ideas, showing up on time for meetings, sending out drafts on schedule, providing positive feedback, and taking responsibility for an appropriate share of the work.

Start early and allow plenty of time for revising

Getting started early is important in individual projects; however, it is absolutely essential in group work. Because of the multiple people involved in researching and writing the paper, there are aspects of group projects that take additional time, such as deciding and agreeing upon a topic. Group projects should be approached in a structured way because there is simply less scheduling flexibility than when you are working alone. The final product should reflect a unified, cohesive voice and argument, and the only way of accomplishing this is by producing multiple drafts and revising them multiple times.

Plan a strategy for scheduling

One of the difficult aspects of collaborative writing is finding times when everyone can meet. Much of the group’s work may be completed individually, but face-to-face meetings are useful for ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Doodle.com , whenisgood.net , and needtomeet.com are free websites that can make scheduling easier. Using these sites, an organizer suggests multiple dates and times for a meeting, and then each group member can indicate whether they are able to meet at the specified times.

It is very important to set deadlines for drafts; people are busy, and not everyone will have time to read and respond at the last minute. It may help to assign a group facilitator who can send out reminders of the deadlines. If the writing is for a co-authored research paper, the lead author can take responsibility for reminding others that comments on a given draft are due by a specific date.

Submitting drafts at least one day ahead of the meeting allows other authors the opportunity to read over them before the meeting and arrive ready for a productive discussion.

Find a convenient and effective way to share files

There are many different ways to share drafts, research materials, and other files. Here we describe a few of the potential options we have explored and found to be functional. We do not advocate any one option, and we realize there are other equally useful options—this list is just a possible starting point for you:

  • Email attachments. People often share files by email; however, especially when there are many group members or there is a flurry of writing activity, this can lead to a deluge of emails in everyone’s inboxes and significant confusion about which file version is current.
  • Google documents . Files can be shared between group members and are instantaneously updated, even if two members are working at once. Changes made by one member will automatically appear on the document seen by all members. However, to use this option, every group member must have a Gmail account (which is free), and there are often formatting issues when converting Google documents back to Microsoft Word.
  • Dropbox . Dropbox.com is free to join. It allows you to share up to 2GB of files, which can then be synched and accessible from multiple computers. The downside of this approach is that everyone has to join, and someone must install the software on at least one personal computer. Dropbox can then be accessed from any computer online by logging onto the website.
  • Common server space. If all group members have access to a shared server space, this is often an ideal solution. Members of a lab group or a lab course with available server space typically have these resources. Just be sure to make a folder for your project and clearly label your files.

Note that even when you are sharing or storing files for group writing projects in a common location, it is still essential to periodically make back-up copies and store them on your own computer! It is never fun to lose your (or your group’s) hard work.

Try separating the tasks of revising and editing/proofreading

It may be helpful to assign giving feedback on specific items to particular group members. First, group members should provide general feedback and comments on content. Only after revising and solidifying the main ideas and structure of the paper should you move on to editing and proofreading. After all, there is no point in spending your time making a certain sentence as beautiful and correct as possible when that sentence may later be cut out. When completing your final revisions, it may be helpful to assign various concerns (for example, grammar, organization, flow, transitions, and format) to individual group members to focus this process. This is an excellent time to let group members play to their strengths; if you know that you are good at transitions, offer to take care of that editing task.

Your group project is an opportunity to become experts on your topic. Go to the library (in actuality or online), collect relevant books, articles, and data sources, and consult a reference librarian if you have any issues. Talk to your professor or TA early in the process to ensure that the group is on the right track. Find experts in the field to interview if it is appropriate. If you have data to analyze, meet with a statistician. If you are having issues with the writing, use the online handouts at the Writing Center or come in for a face-to-face meeting: a coach can meet with you as a group or one-on-one.

Immediately dividing the writing into pieces

While this may initially seem to be the best way to approach a group writing process, it can also generate more work later on, when the parts written separately must be put together into a unified document. The different pieces must first be edited to generate a logical flow of ideas, without repetition. Once the pieces have been stuck together, the entire paper must be edited to eliminate differences in style and any inconsistencies between the individual authors’ various chunks. Thus, while it may take more time up-front to write together, in the end a closer collaboration can save you from the difficulties of combining pieces of writing and may create a stronger, more cohesive document.

Procrastination

Although this is solid advice for any project, it is even more essential to start working on group projects in a timely manner. In group writing, there are more people to help with the work-but there are also multiple schedules to juggle and more opinions to seek.

Being a solo group member

Not everyone enjoys working in groups. You may truly desire to go solo on this project, and you may even be capable of doing a great job on your own. However, if this is a group assignment, then the prompt is asking for everyone to participate. If you are feeling the need to take over everything, try discussing expectations with your fellow group members as well as the teaching assistant or professor. However, always address your concerns with group members first. Try to approach the group project as a learning experiment: you are learning not only about the project material but also about how to motivate others and work together.

Waiting for other group members to do all of the work

If this is a project for a class, you are leaving your grade in the control of others. Leaving the work to everyone else is not fair to your group mates. And in the end, if you do not contribute, then you are taking credit for work that you did not do; this is a form of academic dishonesty. To ensure that you can do your share, try to volunteer early for a portion of the work that you are interested in or feel you can manage.

Leaving all the end work to one person

It may be tempting to leave all merging, editing, and/or presentation work to one person. Be careful. There are several reasons why this may be ill-advised. 1) The editor/presenter may not completely understand every idea, sentence, or word that another author wrote, leading to ambiguity or even mistakes in the end paper or presentation. 2) Editing is tough, time-consuming work. The editor often finds himself or herself doing more work than was expected as they try to decipher and merge the original contributions under the time pressure of an approaching deadline. If you decide to follow this path and have one person combine the separate writings of many people, be sure to leave plenty of time for a final review by all of the writers. Ask the editor to send out the final draft of the completed work to each of the authors and let every contributor review and respond to the final product. Ideally, there should also be a test run of any live presentations that the group or a representative may make.

Entirely negative critiques

When giving feedback or commenting on the work of other group members, focusing only on “problems” can be overwhelming and put your colleagues on the defensive. Try to highlight the positive parts of the project in addition to pointing out things that need work. Remember that this is constructive feedback, so don’t forget to add concrete, specific suggestions on how to proceed. It can also be helpful to remind yourself that many of your comments are your own opinions or reactions, not absolute, unquestionable truths, and then phrase what you say accordingly. It is much easier and more helpful to hear “I had trouble understanding this paragraph because I couldn’t see how it tied back to our main argument” than to hear “this paragraph is unclear and irrelevant.”

Writing in a group can be challenging, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to learn about your topic, the writing process, and the best strategies for collaboration. We hope that our tips will help you and your group members have a great experience.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Cross, Geoffrey. 1994. Collaboration and Conflict: A Contextual Exploration of Group Writing and Positive Emphasis . Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Ede, Lisa S., and Andrea Lunsford. 1990. Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing . Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Speck, Bruce W. 2002. Facilitating Students’ Collaborative Writing . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Collaborative writing: Strategies and activities for writing productively together

  • The Writer’s Craft
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  • Published: 07 May 2021
  • Volume 10 , pages 163–166, ( 2021 )

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Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript.

In the Writer’s Craft section, we offer simple tips to improve your writing in one of three areas: Energy, Clarity and Persuasiveness. Each entry focuses on a key writing feature or strategy, illustrates how it commonly goes wrong, teaches the grammatical underpinnings necessary to understand it and offers suggestions to wield it effectively. We encourage readers to share comments on or suggestions for this section on Twitter, using the hashtag: #how’syourwriting?

Scientific writing is rarely a solo act. It’s not that the researcher doesn’t sit the same lonely vigil as the novelist, hunched over her laptop at the kitchen table in a winter dawn, hoping for inspiration. Sure she does. But, unlike the novelist, the research writer is rarely the sole architect of the text she’s creating. She is sitting alone at that table, but she is not writing alone. She writes on behalf of a team of collaborators, although she might wonder with the faintest tinge of resentment whether they are still in their warm beds as she sits in the pale morning light. Her sense of isolation is temporary though. It will dissipate at the precise moment when five email messages ping into her inbox, each one offering its unique feedback and edits on her circulated draft.

Writing collaboratively can be the best of times and the worst of times. At best, it is richly rewarding. Collaborators brainstorm the vision of the piece together; they enhance the story by thoughtfully questioning one another’s ideas; they craft the text iteratively, weaving a subtle tapestry of argument. At worst, it is deeply frustrating. Collaborators exchange ideas that don’t cohere; they compete to pull the story in pet directions that both complicate and dilute it; they manufacture a stitched-together, Frankenstein of a text. Leading a collaborative writing effort, therefore, is a tricky business. And while many resources exist to help structure and support collaborative research [ 1 , 2 ], most pay little attention to the activity of collaborative writing, beyond issues of authorship candidacy.

Upcoming Writer’s Craft instalments will help you cultivate productive, satisfying writing relationships within your research team. In this piece, we make explicit the strategies and activities involved when a group of researchers writes together, so that your research team can identify them and discuss how they will unfold in a particular project.

Strategies for collaborative writing

Collaborative writing is “an iterative and social process that involves a team focused on a common objective that negotiates, coordinates, and communicates during the creation of a common document” [ 3 ]. Collaborative writing can follow many different strategies [ 4 ], but five are most common [ 2 ]. These are one-for-all writing, each-in-sequence writing, all-in-parallel writing, all-in-reaction writing and multi-mode writing. Each offers a different approach to coordinating the work of writing in a group, and each is suited to different collaborative contexts.

“One-for-all writing” occurs when one person writes on behalf of the team. This strategy is appropriate when the writing task is simple and the stakes are low. For instance, many collaborative teams have a single author write an analytical memo describing the group’s discussion at a research meeting. One-for-all writing offers stylistic consistency and efficiency, but can limit consensus building or revision unless these are explicitly built into document cycles. Therefore, it is best used by groups with a shared understanding of the writing task. Alternately, it can serve as an efficient, low-stakes way of producing a first rough draft that the team understands will undergo multiple iterations using a range of other writing strategies. Writing a first draft is, of course, never ‘simple’, but when the agreed goal is ‘to get something on the page for us to work on together’, one-for-all writing can work well.

“Each-in-sequence” writing occurs when one person starts the writing, completes their task and passes it on to the next person to complete theirs. This strategy is useful for groups working asynchronously who cannot meet often and document-sharing platforms play a central role in its successful realization [ 5 ]. Many teams will use it in the early stages of drafting a grant application, for instance, because it allows for straightforward coordination of distributed work. The sequence may be purposeful: for example, the lead author will draft the introduction, then the research assistant will draft the methods, then a third team member will draft the results, at which point the piece will return to the lead author to draft the discussion. In practice, however, the sequence is often more random: writers get to their sections when they can. Each-in-sequence writing introduces a number of challenges, including minimal social interaction, one-person bottlenecks, lack of coherence because differing ideas are not reconciled or writers invalidate one another’s work, and haphazard version control. Together, these can result in poor overall coherence of the document. Teams can address these challenges by early meetings to clearly articulate the writing tasks and discuss areas of potential overlap or conflict. Also critical is agreement on the paper’s main story and how it will thread through all sections, as well as a shared approach to writing style basics such as first or third person narration, and active or passive voice construction. Coherence is also improved by assigning a lead writer who oversees the sequence and takes responsibility for integration. However, this writer must have the authority to successfully fulfill this role.

“All-in-parallel” writing involves dividing the writing work into discrete units and writers working simultaneously rather than in sequence. This strategy works well in situations where the writing task is easily divided and individual sections are not mutually dependent. Because it tends to offer more process efficiency and writer autonomy than each-in-sequence writing, all-in-parallel writing can produce rapid, high volume output. The strategy is most effective when divisions of labour are not arbitrary but planned according to each writer’s core expertise. For instance, the methodologist on a research team might write the first draft of the methods section, while a team member versed in the substantive domain of the work writes the literature review. The main challenge of all-in-parallel writing is that writers are blind to each other’s work while writing, which can produce redundant or contradictory material. To mitigate this, parallel writing requires careful pre-planning, including an outline of how the parts relate to one another, a shared vision of the audience and purpose of the document, and process to reconcile stylistic differences.

When researchers create a document together in real time, adjusting to each other’s changes and additions without explicit preplanning and coordination, they are using the strategy of “all-in-reaction” writing. Imagine, for example, that you write the first draft of a paper’s Problem/Gap/Hook and send it to your co-authors simultaneously for review and response. They may make edits simultaneously, their edits may contradict or concur with you or with one another, and they may be carefully considered or spontaneous and impulsive. An advantage of the all-in-reaction collaborative writing strategy is that it can support consensus through fluid and creative expression of all writers. It can also provoke debates and enable new, unexpected meanings to emerge. Its main disadvantages include limited coordination, the potential for chaotic development of the piece, and difficulties with version control due to simultaneity of writing. And, for more novice or less powerful writers on the team, it can produce a turbulent, threatening experience. Therefore, all-in-reaction writing works best in small, non-hierarchical groups where all members feel safe to express their opinions. When these conditions are met, it can be a powerful strategy for interdisciplinary groups to create new meanings beyond the borders of conventional disciplinary thinking.

Many research teams use a combination of these strategies over the course of a writing project, called “multi-mode writing”. For instance, a graduate student may produce the first draft of their research manuscript (one-for-all), which is then reviewed sequentially by team members, either as their calendars allow (each-in-random sequence) or in a preplanned order (each-in-purposeful-sequence). Revisions are then produced by the graduate student (one-for-all), and each team member reviews closely one section of the revision according to their expertise (all-in-parallel). The abstract may be written (often hours before the conference submission deadline) on Google Docs or by flurry of emails, with all team members simultaneously helping to whittle the word count and prioritize the key messages (all-in-reaction). Ensuring that all writers are capable users of the technologies supporting the collaborative process is critical.

These five strategies offer a framework for thinking critically about your own collaborative writing practices. Ask yourself these questions:

What strategies does our team employ?

Are our strategies purposeful, selected according to the nature of the team and the needs of the project, or are they accidental?

Do we explicitly discuss how we will coordinate the work, or do we tacitly enact the same strategy each time?

Are we using each strategy in ways that maximize its affordances and minimize its challenges?

Are we using technology appropriately to support our collaborative activities?

Being purposeful and explicit about your collaborative writing strategy can help your team to maximize its unique affordances and minimize its challenges.

Activities of collaborative writing

Collaborative writing involves more than just writing . Writing researchers have identified seven core activities: brainstorming, conceptualizing, outlining, drafting, reviewing, revising and editing [ 2 ].

In brainstorming, the writing group creates a list of potential ideas for the paper. Through conversation and text, they consider how to best represent the findings, what they might say about those findings in relation to the research question, what storylines would make for a compelling Discussion [ 6 ], and what conversations the piece might join in the literature. Brainstorming may start while data collection and analysis are still underway, particularly in qualitative research using theoretical sampling methods.

The activity of conceptualizing involves coalescing and prioritizing brainstorming ideas to articulate the central story of the paper. Some ideas will be set aside as insufficiently mature or irrelevant to the study’s main purpose; others will be pursued in ongoing analyses and reading of related theoretical and empirical literatures. When a study will yield more than one story, the process of conceptualizing must also consider the order and audiences of multiple manuscripts: which story should be told first? To whom?

Once the story is conceptualized, outlining is the process of detailing how it will unfold throughout the sections of the research manuscript genre. What needs to go in the introduction and what would be an unnecessary detour? What degree of detail should the methods include? Which results will be included and in what order? How will the discussion develop the ideas from the introduction? Outlining is an activity that can lend itself more readily to solo than to collaborative work. However, even if one writer takes the lead on outlining, the process should be visible to other members of the group. Talking through the outline in rough as a team, and then reviewing the outline created by the lead author, is one way to maximize both efficiency and input at this stage of the writing process.

In drafting, the outlined sections are flushed out into full sentences, paragraphs and arguments. Create a realistic schedule for this activity; an outline can seem like it lays the whole paper out, but the devil is in the details. Will the literature review be organized chronologically or by points of view in the current scholarly conversation? How much theoretical framing should appear in the introduction? How elaborate should the methods be, and what is the appropriate balance of description and justification? How will main results be illustrated, and which data should appear in tables, figures or quoted excerpts? How will the storyline develop in the discussion, beyond summary of results and limitations? In fact, when you acknowledge the complexity of the writing that goes into even a rough first draft, it probably makes more sense to draft sections in blocks. Consider pairing methods and results, and introduction and discussion, for instance, as these represent, respectively, the study and the story [ 7 ].

Reviewing, revising and editing usually occur in cycles. In reviewing, all members read draft material and provide feedback orally, by email, or in the text itself as track changes or comment boxes. Ideally, reviewing is a directed activity, in which members of the group are asked to focus on particular issues at specific points in the writing process. Revising involves the consideration, prioritization and integration of feedback from group members into the draft. Cycles of reviewing and revising will take place until the text is substantively complete, logically coherent, and rhetorically effective. Editing involves micro-level revisions for style, grammar and flow, which may take place either as individual sections mature or when the entire document is judged complete. Editing at this level may be an activity best undertaken by one writer on the team, in order that the paper does not read as though it was written by several individuals.

These collaborative writing activities are dynamic and iterative. Sometimes the storyline needs revisiting after a particularly substantive round of reviewing. Reviewing may shift into revising. Or editing may take place on some completed sections while other sections are still being reviewed. Because of this, successful collaboration requires cultivating a shared understanding of which activity is being undertaken at any given time. Are you finished brainstorming, you’ve agreed on a conceptualization and you’re now ready to outline the paper? If one writer thinks so, but another is still in brainstorming mode, this can impede progress. Are some writers providing review feedback at the level of micro-editing, while others are grappling with the conceptualization of the story as it is emerging in the draft? Is reviewing of a one-for-all draft turning into all-in-reaction revising? Having a language to talk about the different activities involved in collaborative writing can help to identify and resolve such disparate orientations to the work. And keep in mind that these activities are not ‘neutral’; they occur in the context of interpersonal dynamics on a research team. Collaborators mark, claim, defend and redraw intellectual territory as they work through the various activities associated with the writing [ 8 ]. Being attentive to enactment of territoriality throughout the writing process can help you focus on, rather than deflect, points of tension. Because within these may reside the team’s best opportunities to produce incisive, boundary-pushing thinking.

Depending on the writing project, these seven activities will receive variable emphasis and attention. Some results clearly dictate the storyline, making brainstorming less necessary. Some conceptualizations are sufficiently detailed that outlining can be more perfunctory. Some writers edit as they go, making the editing process less extensive at the end. The value of identifying these activities is to reflect on your own processes: does your writing team tend to skip some of these steps, such as outlining, and to what effect? Do some members of your writing team engage in some activities, such as reviewing, but not in others? Not every writer on a team will engage centrally in every activity. But some degree of participation in all of these writing activities yields more satisfying and efficient collaboration. For instance, team members not involved in the brainstorming and conceptualizing activities may inappropriately reintroduce through their reviewing and revising of drafts a storyline that the team had agreed to reserve for another paper. When such tensions in the writing emerge purposefully among collaborators engaged in all activities, they represent important moments for reviewing earlier decisions and perhaps reconceptualizing the piece. However, when they emerge incidentally because some collaborators are unaware of earlier activities, they can be a source of frustration and inefficiency.

For your research collaboration to culminate in successful collaborative writing, you need to be able to break “writing” into its constituent activities and agree on strategies to coordinate them. This Writer’s Craft instalment offers a vocabulary to support you in this work.

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Lingard, L. Collaborative writing: Strategies and activities for writing productively together. Perspect Med Educ 10 , 163–166 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40037-021-00668-7

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Center for Teaching

Collaborative writing.

Collaborative or team writing is the process of producing a written work as a group where all team members contributed to the content and the decisions about how the group will function. Group assignments can be difficult for many students with busy schedules because they require planning, coordination, and frequent communication with other students. However, teachers nonetheless view group work as good preparation for the types of complex assignments students are likely to receive in workplace settings. Also, collaborative assignments offer students the benefits and experience of building on existing knowledge through the dynamic interplay with and among other students, the subject matter, and you, the teacher. With careful coordination and communication, group writing assignments can yield excellent results and valuable experiences.

7 Things You Should Know About Collaborative Editing

Why Collaborate?

  • Collaboration helps students understand writing as a public, communal act, rather than as a private, isolated one. Many students write papers that make sense to them but that aren’t clear or persuasive for others. Peer reviewers help students to understand that they aren’t writing for themselves, but for readers.
  • Collaboration therefore helps student writers to develop a sense of audience. Too often students write only to please their instructors, whose expectations they rarely understand. Knowing that their peers will read their papers gives students a concrete sense of to whom they are writing, and why.
  • Collaboration helps students to better understand the conventions of academic discourse. When talking about their papers with their peers, students will learn where their readers stumble. They can also find out why. Often, these conversations lead to a better understanding of the writing conventions that the student writer has neglected or misunderstood.
  • Collaboration helps students realize that academic conventions are not simply arbitrary rules, but in fact reflect readers’ expectations. If student writers want to be understood by an academic audience, they must heed the conventions of academic writing.
  • Collaboration gives students practice in analyzing writing. It is easier to see where a classmate’s writing is going awry than it is to find flaws in one’s own prose. It is also easier to critique student writing than it is to analyze the published writing that instructors often give their students as models.
  • Collaboration encourages students to talk about their writing. In peer review sessions, students have to field questions about their writing. They have to explain and sometimes defend their writing strategies.
  • Collaboration helps students to understand writing as a process, and to increase their sense of mastery of what is often a complex and difficult task. The best way to learn something is to teach it. When instructing their peers, students learn how to improve their own prose.

Potential Uses

  • Collaborative groups draw upon the strengths of all their members. Although one student may be stronger in critical thinking skills, another may excel in organizing. By working in groups, students learn from each other while they complete assigned tasks.
  • More and more workplace activities involve project teams. Giving students opportunities to work collaboratively on academic projects can help prepare them for the advantages and pitfalls of collaborative work on the job.
  • Students working in collaborative groups can take advantage of group members for built-in peer review as they complete writing projects.
  • Not least important, collaborative writing assignments usually entail much less grading time for the instructor.

Additional Sources:

http://writingcenter.uconn.edu/collaborative-writing-resources/

https://www.una.edu/writingcenter/docs/Writing-Resources/Collaborative%20Writing%20Strategies.pd

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-collaborative-writing-1689761

  • Diversity of Opinion: With more minds at work on the project there are more ideas and a variety of perspectives. Also, it’s highly unlikely that the group will get writer’s block as a whole.
  • Division of Labor: A group of writers can break a large project down either by tasks (research, drafting, documenting, editing) or sections. It’s important, however, that work is equally distributed and individual members are held accountable for their contributions.
  • Multiple Proofreaders: As long as there are no disagreements over grammar, it helps to have a number of people edit a writing project.
  • Conflict: With more minds, however, conflict, over either the substance or the process of the writing, becomes more likely. Yet when carefully managed, this conflict can produce better writing. Groups must also be careful not to let internal politics impede the project’s progress.
  • Differences in Style: A collaborative writing project may display an unwanted variation in writing style if not carefully edited. Also, team members might have different working styles: some might be get-it-done pragmatists while others might be procrastinating perfectionists.
  • Peer Pressure: If a team member is very quiet or unassertive, he or she will have a hard time being heard in the group setting. Collaborative writing projects, however, can be a good means by which shy people can learn to better interact with others.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a free service that only requires a gmail account (which nearly all students should already have) offered through Google that most students already have experience with, either from taking notes or using it to save their word documents. It offers several features that make it ideal for collaboration such as the ability to share documents among several people, commenting, and edit suggestions. It allows for students to work and write together in real time and facilitates communication.  Tutorial  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8acnIYKJ9g

A wiki is “a collaborative tool that allows students to contribute and modify one or more pages of course related materials.” Wikis are collaborative in nature and facilitate community-building within a course. Essentially, a wiki is a web page with an open-editing system. Wikis work best when individual authorship is less important than the outcome that is created. Also, wikis are most appropriate for content that doesn’t need to be protected from accidental editing. The two most commonly used wikis are  Wikispaces  and  PBwiki . For more information, visit Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching site about wikis:  https://cft.vanderbilt.edu//cft/guides-sub-pages/wikis/

nb, or Nota Bene, is a free, online based annotation taking tool that allows for collaboration. Below is a guided tour of nb video. You can access the  Tutorial  and the  Main Website . https://vimeo.com/7370219

Like nb, Perusall allows for collaborative annotating. A Tutorial video is shown below or you can access  https://perusall.com/  for more information. Perusall does require that if a textbook is being annotated it be purchased through Perusall or an access code is purchased. Other than that, it is a free resource. https://youtu.be/s9n4hGZO9Vo

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Collaborative writing: Strategies and activities for writing productively together

Lorelei lingard.

Department of Medicine, Centre for Education Research & Innovation, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, London, ON Canada

In the Writer’s Craft section, we offer simple tips to improve your writing in one of three areas: Energy, Clarity and Persuasiveness. Each entry focuses on a key writing feature or strategy, illustrates how it commonly goes wrong, teaches the grammatical underpinnings necessary to understand it and offers suggestions to wield it effectively. We encourage readers to share comments on or suggestions for this section on Twitter, using the hashtag: #how’syourwriting?

Scientific writing is rarely a solo act. It’s not that the researcher doesn’t sit the same lonely vigil as the novelist, hunched over her laptop at the kitchen table in a winter dawn, hoping for inspiration. Sure she does. But, unlike the novelist, the research writer is rarely the sole architect of the text she’s creating. She is sitting alone at that table, but she is not writing alone. She writes on behalf of a team of collaborators, although she might wonder with the faintest tinge of resentment whether they are still in their warm beds as she sits in the pale morning light. Her sense of isolation is temporary though. It will dissipate at the precise moment when five email messages ping into her inbox, each one offering its unique feedback and edits on her circulated draft.

Writing collaboratively can be the best of times and the worst of times. At best, it is richly rewarding. Collaborators brainstorm the vision of the piece together; they enhance the story by thoughtfully questioning one another’s ideas; they craft the text iteratively, weaving a subtle tapestry of argument. At worst, it is deeply frustrating. Collaborators exchange ideas that don’t cohere; they compete to pull the story in pet directions that both complicate and dilute it; they manufacture a stitched-together, Frankenstein of a text. Leading a collaborative writing effort, therefore, is a tricky business. And while many resources exist to help structure and support collaborative research [ 1 , 2 ], most pay little attention to the activity of collaborative writing, beyond issues of authorship candidacy.

Upcoming Writer’s Craft instalments will help you cultivate productive, satisfying writing relationships within your research team. In this piece, we make explicit the strategies and activities involved when a group of researchers writes together, so that your research team can identify them and discuss how they will unfold in a particular project.

Strategies for collaborative writing

Collaborative writing is “an iterative and social process that involves a team focused on a common objective that negotiates, coordinates, and communicates during the creation of a common document” [ 3 ]. Collaborative writing can follow many different strategies [ 4 ], but five are most common [ 2 ]. These are one-for-all writing, each-in-sequence writing, all-in-parallel writing, all-in-reaction writing and multi-mode writing. Each offers a different approach to coordinating the work of writing in a group, and each is suited to different collaborative contexts.

“One-for-all writing” occurs when one person writes on behalf of the team. This strategy is appropriate when the writing task is simple and the stakes are low. For instance, many collaborative teams have a single author write an analytical memo describing the group’s discussion at a research meeting. One-for-all writing offers stylistic consistency and efficiency, but can limit consensus building or revision unless these are explicitly built into document cycles. Therefore, it is best used by groups with a shared understanding of the writing task. Alternately, it can serve as an efficient, low-stakes way of producing a first rough draft that the team understands will undergo multiple iterations using a range of other writing strategies. Writing a first draft is, of course, never ‘simple’, but when the agreed goal is ‘to get something on the page for us to work on together’, one-for-all writing can work well.

“Each-in-sequence” writing occurs when one person starts the writing, completes their task and passes it on to the next person to complete theirs. This strategy is useful for groups working asynchronously who cannot meet often and document-sharing platforms play a central role in its successful realization [ 5 ]. Many teams will use it in the early stages of drafting a grant application, for instance, because it allows for straightforward coordination of distributed work. The sequence may be purposeful: for example, the lead author will draft the introduction, then the research assistant will draft the methods, then a third team member will draft the results, at which point the piece will return to the lead author to draft the discussion. In practice, however, the sequence is often more random: writers get to their sections when they can. Each-in-sequence writing introduces a number of challenges, including minimal social interaction, one-person bottlenecks, lack of coherence because differing ideas are not reconciled or writers invalidate one another’s work, and haphazard version control. Together, these can result in poor overall coherence of the document. Teams can address these challenges by early meetings to clearly articulate the writing tasks and discuss areas of potential overlap or conflict. Also critical is agreement on the paper’s main story and how it will thread through all sections, as well as a shared approach to writing style basics such as first or third person narration, and active or passive voice construction. Coherence is also improved by assigning a lead writer who oversees the sequence and takes responsibility for integration. However, this writer must have the authority to successfully fulfill this role.

“All-in-parallel” writing involves dividing the writing work into discrete units and writers working simultaneously rather than in sequence. This strategy works well in situations where the writing task is easily divided and individual sections are not mutually dependent. Because it tends to offer more process efficiency and writer autonomy than each-in-sequence writing, all-in-parallel writing can produce rapid, high volume output. The strategy is most effective when divisions of labour are not arbitrary but planned according to each writer’s core expertise. For instance, the methodologist on a research team might write the first draft of the methods section, while a team member versed in the substantive domain of the work writes the literature review. The main challenge of all-in-parallel writing is that writers are blind to each other’s work while writing, which can produce redundant or contradictory material. To mitigate this, parallel writing requires careful pre-planning, including an outline of how the parts relate to one another, a shared vision of the audience and purpose of the document, and process to reconcile stylistic differences.

When researchers create a document together in real time, adjusting to each other’s changes and additions without explicit preplanning and coordination, they are using the strategy of “all-in-reaction” writing. Imagine, for example, that you write the first draft of a paper’s Problem/Gap/Hook and send it to your co-authors simultaneously for review and response. They may make edits simultaneously, their edits may contradict or concur with you or with one another, and they may be carefully considered or spontaneous and impulsive. An advantage of the all-in-reaction collaborative writing strategy is that it can support consensus through fluid and creative expression of all writers. It can also provoke debates and enable new, unexpected meanings to emerge. Its main disadvantages include limited coordination, the potential for chaotic development of the piece, and difficulties with version control due to simultaneity of writing. And, for more novice or less powerful writers on the team, it can produce a turbulent, threatening experience. Therefore, all-in-reaction writing works best in small, non-hierarchical groups where all members feel safe to express their opinions. When these conditions are met, it can be a powerful strategy for interdisciplinary groups to create new meanings beyond the borders of conventional disciplinary thinking.

Many research teams use a combination of these strategies over the course of a writing project, called “multi-mode writing”. For instance, a graduate student may produce the first draft of their research manuscript (one-for-all), which is then reviewed sequentially by team members, either as their calendars allow (each-in-random sequence) or in a preplanned order (each-in-purposeful-sequence). Revisions are then produced by the graduate student (one-for-all), and each team member reviews closely one section of the revision according to their expertise (all-in-parallel). The abstract may be written (often hours before the conference submission deadline) on Google Docs or by flurry of emails, with all team members simultaneously helping to whittle the word count and prioritize the key messages (all-in-reaction). Ensuring that all writers are capable users of the technologies supporting the collaborative process is critical.

These five strategies offer a framework for thinking critically about your own collaborative writing practices. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What strategies does our team employ?
  • Are our strategies purposeful, selected according to the nature of the team and the needs of the project, or are they accidental?
  • Do we explicitly discuss how we will coordinate the work, or do we tacitly enact the same strategy each time?
  • Are we using each strategy in ways that maximize its affordances and minimize its challenges?
  • Are we using technology appropriately to support our collaborative activities?

Being purposeful and explicit about your collaborative writing strategy can help your team to maximize its unique affordances and minimize its challenges.

Activities of collaborative writing

Collaborative writing involves more than just writing . Writing researchers have identified seven core activities: brainstorming, conceptualizing, outlining, drafting, reviewing, revising and editing [ 2 ].

In brainstorming, the writing group creates a list of potential ideas for the paper. Through conversation and text, they consider how to best represent the findings, what they might say about those findings in relation to the research question, what storylines would make for a compelling Discussion [ 6 ], and what conversations the piece might join in the literature. Brainstorming may start while data collection and analysis are still underway, particularly in qualitative research using theoretical sampling methods.

The activity of conceptualizing involves coalescing and prioritizing brainstorming ideas to articulate the central story of the paper. Some ideas will be set aside as insufficiently mature or irrelevant to the study’s main purpose; others will be pursued in ongoing analyses and reading of related theoretical and empirical literatures. When a study will yield more than one story, the process of conceptualizing must also consider the order and audiences of multiple manuscripts: which story should be told first? To whom?

Once the story is conceptualized, outlining is the process of detailing how it will unfold throughout the sections of the research manuscript genre. What needs to go in the introduction and what would be an unnecessary detour? What degree of detail should the methods include? Which results will be included and in what order? How will the discussion develop the ideas from the introduction? Outlining is an activity that can lend itself more readily to solo than to collaborative work. However, even if one writer takes the lead on outlining, the process should be visible to other members of the group. Talking through the outline in rough as a team, and then reviewing the outline created by the lead author, is one way to maximize both efficiency and input at this stage of the writing process.

In drafting, the outlined sections are flushed out into full sentences, paragraphs and arguments. Create a realistic schedule for this activity; an outline can seem like it lays the whole paper out, but the devil is in the details. Will the literature review be organized chronologically or by points of view in the current scholarly conversation? How much theoretical framing should appear in the introduction? How elaborate should the methods be, and what is the appropriate balance of description and justification? How will main results be illustrated, and which data should appear in tables, figures or quoted excerpts? How will the storyline develop in the discussion, beyond summary of results and limitations? In fact, when you acknowledge the complexity of the writing that goes into even a rough first draft, it probably makes more sense to draft sections in blocks. Consider pairing methods and results, and introduction and discussion, for instance, as these represent, respectively, the study and the story [ 7 ].

Reviewing, revising and editing usually occur in cycles. In reviewing, all members read draft material and provide feedback orally, by email, or in the text itself as track changes or comment boxes. Ideally, reviewing is a directed activity, in which members of the group are asked to focus on particular issues at specific points in the writing process. Revising involves the consideration, prioritization and integration of feedback from group members into the draft. Cycles of reviewing and revising will take place until the text is substantively complete, logically coherent, and rhetorically effective. Editing involves micro-level revisions for style, grammar and flow, which may take place either as individual sections mature or when the entire document is judged complete. Editing at this level may be an activity best undertaken by one writer on the team, in order that the paper does not read as though it was written by several individuals.

These collaborative writing activities are dynamic and iterative. Sometimes the storyline needs revisiting after a particularly substantive round of reviewing. Reviewing may shift into revising. Or editing may take place on some completed sections while other sections are still being reviewed. Because of this, successful collaboration requires cultivating a shared understanding of which activity is being undertaken at any given time. Are you finished brainstorming, you’ve agreed on a conceptualization and you’re now ready to outline the paper? If one writer thinks so, but another is still in brainstorming mode, this can impede progress. Are some writers providing review feedback at the level of micro-editing, while others are grappling with the conceptualization of the story as it is emerging in the draft? Is reviewing of a one-for-all draft turning into all-in-reaction revising? Having a language to talk about the different activities involved in collaborative writing can help to identify and resolve such disparate orientations to the work. And keep in mind that these activities are not ‘neutral’; they occur in the context of interpersonal dynamics on a research team. Collaborators mark, claim, defend and redraw intellectual territory as they work through the various activities associated with the writing [ 8 ]. Being attentive to enactment of territoriality throughout the writing process can help you focus on, rather than deflect, points of tension. Because within these may reside the team’s best opportunities to produce incisive, boundary-pushing thinking.

Depending on the writing project, these seven activities will receive variable emphasis and attention. Some results clearly dictate the storyline, making brainstorming less necessary. Some conceptualizations are sufficiently detailed that outlining can be more perfunctory. Some writers edit as they go, making the editing process less extensive at the end. The value of identifying these activities is to reflect on your own processes: does your writing team tend to skip some of these steps, such as outlining, and to what effect? Do some members of your writing team engage in some activities, such as reviewing, but not in others? Not every writer on a team will engage centrally in every activity. But some degree of participation in all of these writing activities yields more satisfying and efficient collaboration. For instance, team members not involved in the brainstorming and conceptualizing activities may inappropriately reintroduce through their reviewing and revising of drafts a storyline that the team had agreed to reserve for another paper. When such tensions in the writing emerge purposefully among collaborators engaged in all activities, they represent important moments for reviewing earlier decisions and perhaps reconceptualizing the piece. However, when they emerge incidentally because some collaborators are unaware of earlier activities, they can be a source of frustration and inefficiency.

For your research collaboration to culminate in successful collaborative writing, you need to be able to break “writing” into its constituent activities and agree on strategies to coordinate them. This Writer’s Craft instalment offers a vocabulary to support you in this work.

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Strategies for Successful Collaborative Writing

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Wide. Open Science.

Cover of the November-December 2023 issue of Eos

There is No JOIDES in Mudville

The art of scientific curation, academia’s hidden price tag, raising the visibility of latin american science, why—and how to—engage artists in science, wide. open. science..

Nearly all writers know the sensation as the cursor blinks starkly against the screen and pressure mounts. This uncomfortable feeling affects people of all ages, stages, and professions as they try to express their ideas in print—including scientists. Ernest Hemingway is often credited with saying, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” If it were only that easy.

Scientific publications—whether traditional research articles or books, committee white papers, policy documents, or stakeholder reports—often involve multiple authors, which introduces additional challenges to the writing process beyond the fundamental difficulty of putting words on a page. These challenges, which include accommodating different timetables, approaches, and opinions, as well as navigating interpersonal dynamics, can sometimes slow productivity and lead to inequitable contributions and/or attributions in the end product.

To overcome barriers to writing, some people take advantage of writing retreats, boot camps, and accountability circles, which provide structured writing time and supportive communities providing tailored feedback. As researchers and educators familiar with the challenges of collaborative scientific writing, we incorporated and adapted approaches from these types of activities to design an innovative virtual workshop intended to make collaborative writing productive, equitable, and enjoyable.

The weeklong workshop involved more than 30 participants, including many novices to scholarly publishing, grouped into 10 writing teams. Its success was demonstrated by positive participant feedback and the fact that all 10 teams completed full manuscript drafts in just a week! A year later, the resulting papers had all been published.

In addition to its effectiveness in producing scholarly manuscripts, this workshop model could be adapted for other collaborative writing projects, scientific and otherwise. It could be used by researchers within lab groups, collaborating authors from different groups or institutions, and students in undergraduate and graduate courses.

Below, we describe the basic setup of the workshop and five key strategies we used to transform the task of collaborative writing and help writers overcome the blinking cursor.

Order from Messiness

Our workshop was organized through the Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at Two-Year Colleges ( SAGE 2YC ) project and focused on facilitating small groups of community college faculty to develop manuscripts for an issue of the journal New Directions for Community Colleges titled “ Catalyzing Change: STEM Faculty as Change Agents .” The author teams, typically three or four faculty from different institutions who had participated in SAGE 2YC, met 4 hours a day in a 1-week virtual workshop that provided the necessary scaffolding to bring order out of the messiness of collaborative writing.

To form the author teams, participants first selected and prioritized subjects they were interested in covering in their manuscripts; the issue editors then arranged the teams based on participant responses. Before the workshop, each author completed a writing exercise describing their experiences with, for example, online instruction, inclusive teaching strategies, or undergraduate research with community college students . Then they shared their experiences, or “stories”—we deliberately used the word “story” to emphasize the narrative style we encouraged—with their coauthors to cross-pollinate and refine ideas. The teams built on these shared stories to draft each section of their article, and full drafts emerged as they worked through an iterative revisioning process.

Postworkshop support included a timeline with deadlines, individual consultations, online meetings to discuss progress, and low-stakes reviews of completed drafts before external review of their submitted manuscript.

Understand Writing as a Process

The notion of writing as a process may seem intuitive, but it is easily forgotten. Keeping it in mind can help writers remain patient and open to critical feedback.

Writing is more than typing words on a screen; it is a process of creating meaning that evolves as authors compose and revise. The writing process is often divided conceptually into three stages: (1) prewriting, which includes research and brainstorming; (2) composing, during which the structure of authors’ arguments emerges; and (3) revision, which includes re-visioning, or looking again to clarify the message among the writers and for their audience. Feedback throughout the process helps writers refine ideas. The notion of writing as a process may seem intuitive, but it is easily forgotten. Keeping it in mind—and thus reinforcing it in workshop settings—can help writers remain patient and open to critical feedback.

It is also important to convey that despite the simplified outline above, everyone’s writing process differs in the details. On the first day of the workshop, we prompted participants to think about and sketch their individual writing process. They then shared their process with the group, which illuminated the many different ways people approach writing (Figure 1). We learned, for example, that some people write best in the morning versus other times of day, and some begin with an outline, whereas others brainstorm through freewriting or concept maps.

Four handwritten sketches showing authors’ perceptions of their individual writing processes

Writers can be more effective if they understand their own process, and in collaborative writing settings, their expectations can be more realistic and flexible if they acknowledge and understand how the rest of their team approaches writing. They might even learn new strategies that work for them.

Brainstorm Through Freewriting

In freewriting , people write continuously for a specified amount of time, jotting down ideas as they come to mind without judging them or worrying about grammar and punctuation. Writing without self-censorship can help ideas flow and can overcome writer’s block. Freewriting is also a low-stakes way for writers to brainstorm and get feedback early in the writing process before they spend hours crafting individual sentences they may be reluctant to give up later.

Throughout the workshop, we gave participants short periods of time to freewrite in response to such prompts as the following:

  • What are common threads among your team’s individual stories?
  • Why is this work important? Why should the readers care?
  • What are the biggest lessons learned from your topic?
“Freewriting prompts aligned our internal compasses. Even when we had different ideas about how to get from point A to point B, we at least all had common terrain in mind.”

After the time was up, each writer shared their ideas with their teammates, a process that was made easier because of the freewriting and that ensured all voices were heard. Many participants reported in daily road checks and postworkshop evaluations about the value of freewriting activities. For example, one person commented, “I sometimes think everything has to be perfect the first time. Freewriting allowed for writing without boundaries that I could go back and expound on later.” Another noted that “the quick writes…gave each of us a chance to write our own thoughts first (‘think, then share’).”

The sequence of individual writing followed by round-the-team sharing and discussion led to productive collaborative writing, galvanizing consensus among team members and spurring new ideas. As another participant said, the “freewriting prompts aligned our internal compasses. Even when we had different ideas about how to get from point A to point B, we at least all had common terrain in mind.”

Hold Off on the Introduction

An introduction is where writers articulate the purpose and vision of a manuscript for a specific audience, contextualize a hook to grab readers’ attention, and, in a collaboratively written piece, help multiple authors set a consistent tone and voice. The introduction is a crucial part of any publication, often determining whether people continue reading into the core discussion.

A common tendency is to want to write sequentially, from beginning to end. In some cases, though, the exact message of a manuscript may emerge to authors only after they have written and clarified arguments, examples, and analysis in other sections of the document. Thus, the introduction may best be written out of sequence.

Figure listing the parts of the manuscript template used in a writing workshop and the daily schedule of the workshop

We reinforced this point by having teams begin drafting their introduction on the third day of the workshop, after they spent time the first two days describing and sharing their stories and finding common themes and key points (Figure 2). In the opening session of day 3, the teams discussed the introduction’s purpose and importance. As their main arguments became clearer, authors then considered how to hook readers, first individually following a freewriting prompt (“How might you move the reader into the world of your chapter?”) and then as teams.

We encouraged them to be creative and provided an example of a successful paper that began with a quote and a hypothetical scenario to draw readers in. The authors generated many creative ideas for engaging audiences, including quotes, anecdotes, and scenarios (Figure 3). And we found that participants liked writing their manuscripts out of order. One commented that it was “hugely beneficial,” adding, “I’m a linear thinker, thus a linear writer, and can’t often get beyond the introduction and examples. I was skeptical at first about the order, but came to embrace it.”

Three-panel figure listing examples of final titles, earlier brainstormed titles, and creative hooks used in articles published in a scholarly journal

Write for Your Audience

Effective writing is conversational in some ways, anticipating and providing the context needed by someone else to understand the substance and significance of the authors’ message.

Effective writing is conversational in some ways, anticipating and providing the context needed by someone else (i.e., an audience) to understand the substance and significance of the authors’ message. An important first step is to define one’s target audience (e.g., scientists, policymakers, the public) and intended outlet for publication, which will help authors tailor their arguments, style, and structure.

We stressed the idea of writing for one’s audience through several workshop activities. One focused on crafting successful titles, which give readers the first hint about the content and tone of a publication. In a fun exercise on the second day of the workshop, each team generated a few possible titles for their manuscript based on emerging themes from the day’s freewriting and discussions. Then other teams commented on the title options, indicating favorites and offering suggestions for improvement. By asking these external readers what they thought the article would be about, the participants discovered quickly whether their purpose was clear in the title.

Figure 3 shows several examples of final manuscript titles (in bold italic) that emerged after authors received feedback about possibilities brainstormed by their group. Some feedback, for instance, focused on keeping titles concise, more accurately reflecting the article’s content, and being more engaging.

As in other exercises throughout the week, this one gave writers immediate feedback on and audience reaction to their in-progress ideas, encouraging teams to make early revisions.

Honor All Voices

Viewing a topic from others’ perspectives challenges writers to examine their own assumptions and explanations and potentially reveals their own implicit biases. This is especially important for successful collaborative writing, in which coauthors share a common goal but may have different opinions about how to achieve it.

In our workshop, each writer shared ideas for a particular section of their team’s manuscript before the team drafted that section. After other brainstorming and freewriting sessions, team members similarly met to talk through their notes and agree on key points and promising ideas. To support equitable and inclusive collaborative writing, we provided teams with ground rules for these discussions, including listening actively and asking questions with the intention to learn, being respectful of others’ ideas and perspectives, and including everyone in discussions (i.e., speak up, step back).

Beyond these ground rules, we also asked teams to discuss author order and to set their own team norms, such as how they planned to handle differences of opinion about team decisions and deadlines. (One team suggested using the five-finger consensus .) And we encouraged teams to share information—about time constraints and conflicting obligations, for example—that would help them establish realistic writing schedules. They also discussed what their writing process sketches revealed to help them understand each other and work successfully as a team.

Furthermore, in some teams, participants took turns serving as an equity monitor, who was responsible for ensuring everyone had opportunities to participate. The structure of these discussions set the foundation for building a supportive writing community that honored all voices.

A Widely Applicable Model

Our focus on effective writing strategies and inclusive approaches to group work produced a community of writers working equitably and productively together.

Our focus on effective writing strategies and inclusive approaches to group work produced a community of writers working equitably and productively together. Participants’ feedback made clear that the following workshop characteristics were important in helping them feel respected and valued:

  • providing explicit structure to the group writing process through planned activities, including dedicated brainstorming and writing sessions
  • building in inclusive, nonhierarchical practices that encourage cross-pollination of ideas from all authors, enable real-time feedback, and reduce feelings of isolation
  • acknowledging that writing is hard work while providing positive encouragement within a supportive environment, where critiques are constructive and build confidence

This workshop model is ideal for collaborative writing among authors with a range of experience, including student writers. Novice writers reported feeling comfortable sharing unpolished drafts and found early recommendations for revisions easier to incorporate.

More inclusive and equitable approaches to collaborative writing are likely to open paths to more diverse representation among authors. By following the strategies and advice described here, authors also may find the writing process smoother and more enjoyable. In addition, the finished products may end up clearer and more accessible, allowing findings and conclusions to be more easily applied in research, education, and policy.

Acknowledgments

We thank the workshop participants for their contributions to the workshop, supportive collegiality, and feedback. This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education through grants 1525593, 1524605, 1524623, 1524800, and 1835935. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Author Information

Eric M. D. Baer ( [email protected] ), Highline College, Des Moines, Wash.; Karen M. Layou, Reynolds Community College, Richmond, Va.; and R. Heather Macdonald and Sharon L. Zuber, William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.

Citation:  Baer, E. M. D., K. M. Layou, R. H. Macdonald, and S. L. Zuber (2023), Strategies for successful collaborative writing,  Eos, 104, https://doi.org/10.1029/2023EO230078 . Published on 3 March 2023 2023.

Text © 2023. the authors.  cc by-nc-nd 3.0 except where otherwise noted, images are subject to copyright. any reuse without express permission from the copyright owner is prohibited., features from agu journals.

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Writing Center

Collaborative writing resources.

A collaborative writing project Stacie Renfro Powers, Courtenay Dunn-Lewis, and Gordon Fraser University of Connecticut Writing Center

The resources that follow include ideas, research, and worksheets to help instructors integrate collaborative writing projects (CWPs) into their curriculum. Some techniques will be more practical for larger projects or projects of extended length. Many of the class resources are available in Microsoft Word and are intended to be customized for to the specific needs of each project.

General Considerations:

A. there are many ways to write collaboratively in the classroom..

In a practical sense, classroom collaboration can involve writing text together or separately, editing another’s work, peer reviewing in a face-to-face/virtual environment, or all (or none) of the above. It may involve running drafts by colleagues or having an editor piece together multiple contributions. Class assignments and deadlines may dictate some of this – or an instructor may simply let it happen organically.

While individual writing emerges from several iterations of brainstorming, organizing, writing, and refining, group writing multiplies these efforts. The process varies according to the group composition, experience, and constraints. This is confirmed in the literature, as no author advances a “best practice” for collaborative writing. In fact, as will be discussed below, almost all of the advice for collaborative writing centers on how to manage group workflow and dynamics.

B. Should a group project in the classroom reflect the “real world?”

Collaboration in the professional world is presented in a variety of scenarios – from a single author soliciting advice from colleagues to co-authored texts where input is equally shared. Some believe that it is important to model writing collaboration projects after the professional process (as a student might encounter them in their career). However, team writing in the professional context is not intended to be an educational experience. As Speck (2002) points out, “real world” work is not often evenly distributed. Professionals who are not able to contribute effectively may be dropped from a project with little fallout. These differences do not allow academic projects to maintain the style of those in the “real world.” The payoff of successful academic collaborative writing projects, however, should translate into better group skills when students do move into the working world.

The collaborative process in an academic setting is a valuable, predominantly educational, experience. Many students are still growing in their ability to write and work with the writing of others. Generating a coherent product from multiple student voices (and, at times, multiple academic disciplines) may be demanding. As Price and Warner (2005) write: “Our challenge is to find ways to help our students render the layers visible, so that we can offer them guidance as detailed and complex as their processes of composing warrant. This may mean letting go of values such as “coherence,” and inviting the potential benefits of mess.” It also means that the process becomes an integral part of the learning experience. In other words, challenging students to pursue a project – even in a manner that is not always smooth and does not always reflect the professional process – may allow them to become better at collaboration, writing, and other career-related skills.

C. Anticipating Obstacles is Important.

Research has shown that receiving personal satisfaction from group experiences is an important predictor of willingness to join other task groups, the ability to generate higher quality decisions, and increased commitment to those decisions (Hall, as cited in Bogert & Butt, 1990). However, while students are initially more concerned with the task than the group dynamics, successful completion of the task is not enough to leave them feeling satisfied with the outcome (Bogert & Butt, 1990). Embarking on a collaborative writing project in class requires an instructor’s awareness of the potential obstacles at play, their role in managing such obstacles, and strategies for prevention.

In an analysis of videotapes of group communication patterns, students encountered “the substantive, procedural, and relational problems experienced by many other problem solving groups” (Hirokawa & Gouran, as cited in Bogert & Butt, 1990). These issues included task-related problems that directly affect writing quality. These students experienced difficulty in testing ideas critically, in evaluating alternatives, and in achieving closure on important items. The tendency to introduce irrelevant discussion, failure to consider interpersonal relationships and authority relations, and outright conflict further compounded the bad experiences. The affected students were less likely to want to work in groups in the future.

Experienced instructors emphasize the importance of effective group communication as a foundation for successful collaborative writing experiences. While it is possible for most group projects to be successful even if there is no intervention, Mead (1994) estimates that about one in four groups will experience some kind of conflict that requires instructor mediation. Other techniques described below, such as monitoring students and ensuring proper group formation, can greatly improve the outcome of the group process.

Implementation:

1. group formation.

There are several considerations at play as far as group membership is concerned. Some instructors have found that students do better when they are assigned to groups. This ensures diversity, which leads to less groupthink and more substantive discussions. For large projects that require a lot of out-of-class meeting time, students may want to identify peers with similar schedules, interests, or campus residences. Speck recommends giving the students a sign-up sheet and leaving the room for 15-20 minutes.

Once groups are formed, other strategies may be useful depending on the expectations of the project. It is usually useful to conduct some initial icebreaker tasks to allow group members to get to know one another. Another option is to have group members take a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Inventory, to help identify their strengths for their group members (Deans, 2003).

2. Preventative Organization

Instructors can take several preventative steps to optimize group effectiveness and reduce the potential for conflict. Some of these steps can be performed prior to assigning team roles. For example, it is often useful to establish a group’s consensus on its own operations (meeting times, grade goals, policies for differences of opinion). To prevent group discord, a group contract can be used to create a consensus on expectations.

Either before or after assigning roles, formulating a group proposal can help an instructor to evaluate whether teams are putting energy into useful projects or doomed endeavors. Such proposals may accompany a writing plan, which will help with the organization of the project and distribution of work. (Please see the next section for more information on assigning roles).

  • Group Contract
  • Collaborative Writing
  • Writing Plan

3. Assigning Roles

Issues of fairness can overshadow the learning process and can take up unplanned-for time. Assigning roles can facilitate communication processes and create comfortable conditions for constructive disagreement. You and/or the students may decide that it is preferable to rotate who is responsible for administrative roles (such as the meeting leader and note-taker) so that everyone has a chance to organize the process (Speck, 2002, p. 70).

It may be useful to consider roles in two categories: those concerned with accomplishing a task, and those concerned with maintaining group relations. Task roles may include initiators, information seekers/givers, opinion seekers/givers, clarifiers, elaborators, and summarizers (Speck, 2002, pp. 66-71). Group maintenance roles include encouragers, feeling expressers, compromisers, and gatekeepers. Before a big discussion, it is helpful to identify a devil’s advocate, or person who will challenge the group’s arguments and approaches in order to clarify them (p. 91).

For a short reading and group assignment on roles, see: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_85.htm

4. Dedicated Class Time.

Including a collaborative writing project in a curriculum brings up several issues for time management. Instructors must consider the schedules of students and their abilities to meet. In addition, instructors often raise concerns on finding the time to give feedback on the writing and the process itself. A combination of dedicated class time and instructor monitoring typically improves the quality of projects and reduces time concerns (please see the next section for more on monitoring).

Many resources recommend scheduling class time for group work and group conferences. This does result in less time for lecture and other classroom activities. However, this allows instructors to become more familiar with each group’s work when it is still in its formative stages. Instructors may also find that they can anticipate issues more readily and detect groups that are stalling. Instructors can then save a lot of the time that they would otherwise have spent reading and commenting on poor drafts.

5. Group Meetings and Monitoring.

Advocates of collaborative writing stress the need to intervene during the entire process. This includes monitoring during class time, establishing meeting requirements, and/or monitoring meetings themselves. Monitoring helps to confirm that the process is going smoothly, that each group is compatible, and that work is effective. Instructors may choose to meet with groups beginning in the first week. This allows instructors to answer questions, confirm roles, and clarify expectations (Kryder, 1991). Thereafter, requiring group or individual conferences throughout the project can help ensure continual progress.

To enhance the effectiveness of such activities, groups can supply a meeting plan prior to the meeting and supply a progress report after each meeting. A decision making guide, while advantageous for any decision a group is faced with, may also help resolve conflict.

  • Decision Making Guide
  • Meeting Planning Guide
  • Weekly Progress Reports

6. Evaluation

Just as the process of collaborative writing can be an educational experience, so can the process of evaluation. You may want to allow students to modify evaluation questions and criteria. This may be useful as a learning tool, as it can help them to gain more perspective on the process. For example, Speck recommends letting students give input into how to weight the group evaluation criteria.

  • Peer Review Worksheet
  • Evaluation of a Team Member’s Contribution

Further References

Books and articles that can help start the conversation:.

  • Ronald, K. & Roskelly, H. (2002) Learning to Take it Personally: The Ethics of Collaborative Writing.* In D. H. Holdstein & D. Bleich (Eds.), Personal Effects: The Social Character of Scholarly Writing. Logan, Utah: State University Press.
  • Bruffee, K. A. (1999). Collaborative Learning (Second ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Ede, L., and Andrea A. Lunsford. (Mar. 2001). Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship. PMLA, 116(2), 354-369.
  • Hyman, D., & Lazaroff, B. (2007). With A Little Help From Our Friends: Collaboration and Student Knowledge-Making in the Composition Classroom. In F. Gaughan & P. H. Khost (Eds.), Collaboration(,) Literature(,) and Composition (pp. 127-145). Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc.
  • Price, M., & Warner, A. B. (Dec. 2005). What You See Is(Not) What You Get: Collaborative Composing in Visual Space. Across the Disciplines   Retrieved Nov. 1, 2007, from http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/visual/price_warner.cfm
  • Reither, J. A., and Douglas Vipond. (Dec. 1989). Writing as Collaboration. College English, 51(8), 855-867.
  • Spooner, M. & Yancey, K. (1998). A single good mind: Collaboration, cooperation, and the writing self. College Composition and Communication, 49(1), 45-62.
  • Bogert, J. & Butt, D. (1990). Opportunities lost, challenges met: Understanding and applying group dynamics in writing projects. Bulletin of the Association of Business Communication, 53(2), 51-58. Retrieved from ERIC database (EJ411597).
  • Deans, T. (2003). Writing and Community Action: A Service-Learning Rhetoric with Readings. New York: Longman.
  • Speck, B. W., Johnson, T. R., Dice, C. P., & Heaton, L. B. (1999). Collaborative Writing: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Speck, B. W. (2002). Facilitating Students’ Collaborative Writing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Kryder, L. G. (1991). Project administration techniques for successful classroom collaborative writing. Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication, 54(4), 65-66. Retrieved from ERIC database (EJ439195).
  • Mead, D. G. (1994). Celebrating Dissensus in Collaboration: A Professional Writing Perspective. Paper presented at the 45th Conference on College Composition and Communication in Nashville, TN. Retrieved from ERIC database (ED375427).
  • University of Maryland Graduate School of Management and Technology. (nd). Tips for Collaborative Writing. Retrieved online at  http://www.umuc.edu/departments/omde/orientation/ collaborativewriting.pdf

Collaborative Writing

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Collaborative writing involves two or more persons working together to produce a written document. Also called group writing, it is a significant component of work in the business world, and many forms of business writing and technical writing depend on the efforts of collaborative writing teams. 

Professional interest in collaborative writing, now an important subfield of composition studies , was spurred by the publication in 1990 of Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing by Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford.

Observation

"Collaboration not only draws on the expertise and energy of different people but can also create an outcome that is greater than the sum of its parts." -Rise B. Axelrod and Charles R. Cooper

Guidelines for Successful Collaborative Writing

Following the ten guidelines below will increase your chances of success when you write in a group.

  • Know the individuals in your group. Establish rapport with your team.
  • Do not regard one person on the team as more important than another.
  • Set up a preliminary meeting to establish guidelines.
  • Agree on the group's organization.
  • Identify each member's responsibilities, but allow for individual talents and skills.
  • Establish the time, places, and length of group meetings.
  • Follow an agreed-on timetable, but leave room for flexibility.
  • Provide clear and precise feedback to members.
  • Be an active listener .
  • Use a standard reference guide for matters of style, documentation, and format.

Collaborating Online

"For collaborative writing , there are various tools which you can use, notably the wiki which provides an online shared environment in which you can write, comment or amend the work of others...If you are required to contribute to a wiki, take every opportunity to meet regularly with your collaborators: the more you know the people you collaborate with, the easier it is to work with them...

"You will also need to discuss how you are going to work as a group. Divide up the jobs...Some individuals could be responsible for drafting, others for commenting, others for seeking relevant resources." -Janet MacDonald and Linda Creanor

Different Definitions of Collaborative Writing

"The meaning of the terms collaboration and collaborative writing are being debated, expanded, and refined; no final decision is in sight. For some critics, such as Stillinger, Ede and Lunsford, and Laird, collaboration is a form of 'writing together' or 'multiple authorship' and refers to acts of writing in which two or more individuals consciously work together to produce a common text...Even if only one person literally 'writes' the text, another person contributing ideas has an effect on the final text that justifies calling both the relationship and the text it produces collaborative. For other critics, such as Masten, London, and myself, collaboration includes these situations and also expands to include acts of writing in which one or even all of the writing subjects may not be aware of other writers, being separated by distance, era, or even death." -Linda K. Karrell

Andrea Lunsford on the Benefits of Collaboration

"[T]he data I amassed mirrored what my students had been telling me for years: . . . their work in groups , their collaboration , was the most important and helpful part of their school experience. Briefly, the data I found all support the following claims:

  • Collaboration aids in problem finding as well as problem-solving.
  • Collaboration aids in learning abstractions.
  • Collaboration aids in transfer and assimilation; it fosters interdisciplinary thinking.
  • Collaboration leads not only to sharper, more critical thinking (students must explain, defend, adapt) but to a deeper understanding of others .
  • Collaboration leads to higher achievement in general.
  • Collaboration promotes excellence. In this regard, I am fond of quoting Hannah Arendt: 'For excellence, the presence of others is always required.'
  • Collaboration engages the whole student and encourages active learning; it combines reading, talking, writing, thinking; it provides practice in both synthetic and analytic skills."

Feminist Pedagogy and Collaborative Writing

"As a pedagogical foundation, collaborative writing was, for the early advocates of feminist pedagogy, a kind of respite from the strictures of the traditional, phallogocentric, authoritarian approaches to teaching...The underlying assumption in collaborative theory is that each individual within the group has an equal opportunity to negotiate a position, but while there is an appearance of equity, the truth is, as David Smit notes, collaborative methods can, in fact, be construed as authoritarian and do not reflect conditions outside the parameters of the controlled environment of the classroom." -Andrea Greenbaum

Also Known As: group writing, collaborative authoring

  • Andrea Greenbaum, Emancipatory Movements in Composition: The Rhetoric of Possibility . SUNY Press, 2002
  • Andrea Lunsford, "Collaboration, Control, and the Idea of a Writing Center."  The Writing Center Journal , 1991
  • Linda K. Karell, Writing Together, Writing Apart: Collaboration in Western American Literature . Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2002
  • Janet MacDonald and Linda Creanor, Learning With Online and Mobile Technologies: A Student Survival Guide . Gower, 2010
  • Philip C. Kolin, Successful Writing at Work , 8th ed. Houghton Mifflin, 2007
  • Rise B. Axelrod and Charles R. Cooper, The St. Martin's Guide to Writing , 9th ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010
  • The Whys and How-tos for Group Writing in All Content Areas
  • Definiton and Examples of Faulty Pronoun Reference
  • Writing English Drama Scripts in ESL Class
  • Discovery Strategy for Freewriting
  • Verb Phrase
  • Icebreaker Games: Teamwork Icebreaker
  • Definition and Examples of Rhetorical Stance
  • Definition and Examples of Evaluation Essays
  • Differentiating Instruction for Success in Special Education
  • Audience Analysis in Speech and Composition
  • 8 Places to Put Your Family Tree Online
  • Discover Ideas Through Brainstorming
  • Peer Response (Composition)
  • Group Project Grading Tip: Students Determine Fair Grade
  • Definition, Examples, and Observations on Writing
  • Feminist Organizations of the 1970s

Become a Writer Today

What Is Collaborative Writing? Everything You Need to Know

What is collaborative writing? Learn more about what it is like to complete a writing project with other team members.

There are a lot of group projects that people complete at all levels, and some are asked to complete group writing projects. This is called collaborative writing, and it involves brainstorming, writing, revising, and publishing writing projects with the help of other group members.

Many moving parts happen during collaborative writing projects, and multiple writers are typically employed to complete different tasks. For example, one person might be responsible for the first draft, while another might be responsible for the editing process. One writer might have the authority to go in and change something that another writer has written. This writing process can be helpful in certain situations. What is involved in finishing a project?

Collaborative Writing Example

Single author writing, sequential single writing, parallel writing, reactive writing, mixed mode writing, turn writing engagement, lead writing, communication is critical, be clear about the roles, create specific deadlines, know who to go to for help, use real-time collaboration tools.

One of the top examples of collaborative writing in action is the process of creating Wikipedia entries. These are articles that multiple people write, then edited by admins, followed by changes suggested by various readers. This is a collaborative writing environment where individual duties are demarcated between different groups of people.

Every writer has equal abilities and authority in the perfect collaborative writing environment. They can engage in writing, editing, adding, removing, and changing various parts of the project. Successful collaborative writing leads to publishing a final product that is as accurate as possible. That is what happens with Wiki articles.

Different Types of Collaborative Writing?

Group work comes in many shapes and forms. Collaborative writing is no different. There are several different types of collaborative writing, and some of the most common types include:

One of the most common types of collaborative writing is called single-author writing. In this type of writing, one person represents an entire team that works together to produce written work. For example, multiple people might work on files in Google Docs. They might be responsible for writing their work, sending it to an editor for proofreading, and then publishing it under one person’s name. It looks like individual work, but in reality, many people play significant roles in getting the project done.

One of the most common examples of this type of project is when multiple people publish blog posts for a lawyer, but based on the website, it looks like the leading lawyer is responsible for doing all of the work. This also means that the person whose name is on the final product is responsible for the accuracy of the facts that get presented. You might also be interested in our explainer on what is mapping in writing .

Another common type of collaborative writing is called single sequential writing. This type of project occurs when a group of writers works on a single area of the writing project, but they all take place in a sequence. This means that one person works on the first part of the article and then passes it to the second writer to work on the next part of the article.

Peer review takes place because the second writer can change the work of the first writer. For example, one person might be responsible for brainstorming. Then, that person might pass an outline to the second writing team member for the next writing task, which might mean putting together a rough draft. After that, the next writer will be responsible for the writing style, ensuring that the right tone is struck. Finally, a fourth writer might be responsible for ensuring all of the publication requirements are met.

Parallel writing is similar to single sequential writing in that members are responsible for different project areas. The difference is that different parts of the project are handled simultaneously. For example, when the first part of the article is outlined, it might get passed to the next writer to take the research and complete a draft; however, the first writer might be responsible for outlining another portion of the article while the next writer is working on writing the first portion.

In this case, collaborative learning is also necessary because the first writer might take the feedback from the second writer and use it to create a better outline for the next portion of the assignment. This could expedite the process of getting the article finished. There are also a lot of collaborative tools that could be used in this situation to make the process easier.

Another one of the most popular collaborative writing strategies is called reactive writing. This type of collaborative writing process occurs when different team members go through different projects that are completed by different team members and suggest changes.

This is where Google Docs can be helpful because someone can comment on the doc in real-time, making it easier for one co-author to “react” to the work that has been written, suggest changes, and ensure everyone knows what is happening before the project is finalized. This type of division of labor is beneficial because it ensures the final document is credible. With so many people sharing their information, the final document is more likely to be accurate and represent the group’s opinions. This is one of the most common types of collaborative writing, mainly when an editor is involved.

The mixed mode type of collaborative writing is a blend of the above. For example, a group of people could work face-to-face on a group assignment to put together a rough draft. Then, the entire team might pass the document to another group of people who react to it.

There might be some personal writing, but every group member works on it in real-time to produce a final draft. Different team members might have specific tasks assigned to them. Still, once they finish their tasks, they become reactive members or learners, working with others to complete the project as quickly as possible while ensuring the final draft is as solid as possible. This is one of the most common types of collaborative writing and is great for learning.

Different Types of Engagement In Collaborative Writing

For collaborative writing to work as well as possible, it is critical to ensure that everyone is as engaged with the rest of the team as possible. In general, there are two ways to ensure everyone is engaged with the project as it unfolds. They include:

The first type of engagement is called turn-writing engagement. This type of writing takes place where there are multiple authors who each contribute to different sections. They suggest changes and additional modifications. Then, they check the sections, implement the suggested changes, and publish them. This type of engagement is called turn writing because each writer takes a turn before passing it to the next team member. Everyone takes a turn, and everyone has a voice.

The other type of engagement is called lead writing. There might be a specialist who is given a piece to compose. For example, a scientist might have a research project that has to get published. They will write down their thoughts on the topic but give the piece to another writer to ensure the voice and style are great. Before the piece can be published, the assignment is given back to the expert, who reviews the changes and ensures the information is still accurate. Again, they will voice their thoughts to make sure the information will have the intended impact on the reader before publishing it.

Top Tips for a Strong Collaborative Writing Process

Even though collaborative writing can be a great way to complete a writing project, there are also a lot of challenges along the way. Everyone should follow a few tips to make sure the piece goes as smoothly as possible. Some of the top tips to keep in mind include:

One of the most common reasons why people have trouble during the collaborative writing process is that they do not communicate with one another. Particularly in the current environment, there are a lot of people who work remotely. If group members do not communicate well with each other, they will have difficulty figuring out when something is ready for their review. This can lead to delays and scope creep during the project, leading to a sloppy finished product. Therefore, it is helpful to use a communication tool, such as Slack , to make it easier for people to stay in touch during the project.

Speaking of communication, it is helpful to ensure everyone knows their role. Sometimes, a project can get going, but many people do not know exactly who is responsible for what. As a result, some people might end up working on the same part of the project, leading to confusion in the group. Then, there are other areas of the project that might fall through the cracks. It might be helpful to use a project management tool, such as ClickUp , to make it easier for people to see the deliverables.

It is not unusual for a collaborative writing project to be turned in late because people do not know what the deadlines are and when different parts of the project are due. For example, the group might only see the final deadline, but if someone does not pass the project to the next person fast enough, the next person might not have adequate time to do their portion of the project. That is why it is helpful to set deadlines for the individual pieces, not just the final project.

When a collaborative writing project gets going, it is critical to ensure everyone knows who to go to for help. With many people in the group, some members might not know who to call if they need help. Ensure all relevant contact information is shared and group members know who the next person in line might be. This could be an excellent place to start if someone needs help with a portion of the project, and it can reduce the phone (or text) tag people play.

Finally, with every collaborative writing assignment, it is critical to use real-time collaboration tools. If the document has to be saved and emailed before the next person can start working, it is hard to know the most recent version of the project. So instead, use real-time collaboration tools that allow multiple people to work on the file simultaneously. Then, people know what version of the project is the most recent one (because there will only be one), and they can see who has made what edits to the file.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips !

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4. TEAMWORK AND COMMUNICATION

4.3 Collaborative Writing

Suzan Last and Candice Neveu

You have likely had at least one opportunity to work and write collaboratively with others, as this is an increasingly common way to work, both in school and in the workplace. The engineering design process, at least in part, entails working collaboratively to gather, organize, manage and disseminate information. [1] This information is often carefully analyzed and used to make important decisions, so it is critical that team members collaborate effectively in managing these communications tasks.

Engineers report spending a considerable amount of their time writing, and they frequently engage in collaborative writing (CW). A recent survey asked various professionals what portion of their work week was devoted to writing, collaborative writing, and international communications. [2] The results shown in Table 4.3.1 indicate that collaborative writing makes up a significant portion of overall writing tasks.

Research has also shown that “writing in general and CW in particular have been recognized to be fundamental to most professional and academic practices in engineering.” [3]   Figure 4.3.1  shows that engineers rate writing skills as extremely important to career advancement. [4]

37%=Extremely important; 36%=very important; 20%=moderately important; 5%=slightly important; 2%=not at all important

Like any kind of teamwork, collaborative writing requires the entire team to be focused on a common objective; according to Lowry et al ., an effective team “negotiates, coordinates, and communicates during the creation of a common document.” [6] The collaborative writing process, like the Tuckman team formation model, is iterative and social, meaning the team works together and moves back and forth throughout the process.

Successful collaborative writing is made easier when you understand the different strategies you can apply, how best to control the document, and the different roles people can assume. Figure 4.3.2 outlines the various activities involved at various stages of the collaborating writing process.

Four collaborative writing stages. Image description available.

Collaborative writing strategies are methods a team uses to coordinate the writing of a collaborative document. There are five main strategies (see Table 4.3.2 ), each with their advantages and disadvantages. Can you think of any other benefits or limitations?

Document management reflects the approaches used to maintain version control of the document and describe who is responsible for it. Four main control modes are listed in Table 4.3.3 , along with their pros and cons. Can you think of any more, based on your experience?

Roles refer to the different hats participants might wear, depending on the activity. Table 4.3.4 describes several roles within a collaborative writing team. Which role(s) have you had in a group project? Are there ones you always seem to do? Ones that you prefer, dislike, or would like to try?

EXERCISE 4.3 Follow up and reflect

Refer back to the warm-up at the start of this section. Using the tables above, analyze your example to determine the writing strategy and mode that best describes your experience, and what role(s) you took on.

How effective was the strategy that you used? Would another strategy have been more effective?

Image description

Figure 4.3.2 image description:

Four stages of collaborative writing

  • Team introductions, getting to know each others’ skill sets
  • Team bonding, building trust
  • Operating agreements, setting expectations
  • Review tasks to be done and roles of each team mate, create a work plan
  • Set team goals and objectives: milestones, deliverables, due dates
  • Determine processes for workflow and decision making
  • Plan the document: research, brainstorm, outline the document format and content
  • Compose a draft of the document
  • Revise: iterative revisions, consider using an outside peer reviewer
  • Final document review to edit and approve content, organization, and style
  • Final document processing (proofreading and submitting)
  • External approval

[Return to Figure 4.3.2]

  • S. McCahan, P. Anderson, M. Kortschot, P. E. Weiss, and K. A. Woodhouse, “Introduction to teamwork,” in Designing Engineers: An Introductory Text , Hoboken, NY: Wiley, 2015, p. 14. ↵
  • J. Swartz, S. Pigg, J. Larsen, J. Helo Gonzalez, R. De Haas, and E. Wagner, "Communication in the workplace: What can NC State students expect?" Report from the Professional Writing Program, North Carolina State University, 2018. ↵
  • J. Gimenez and J. Thondhlana, “Collaborative writing in Engineering: Perspectives from research and implications for undergraduate education,” European Journal of Engineering Education , vol. 37, no. 5, 2012, 471-487. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03043797.2012.714356 ↵
  • J. Swartz, et al . ↵
  • J. Swartz, et al .  CC-BY 4.0 . ↵
  • P.B. Lowry, A. Curtis, and M.R. Lowry, “Building a taxonomy and nomenclature of collaborative writing to improve interdisciplinary research and practice,” Journal of Business Communication , vol. 41, 2004, pp. 66-97. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0021943603259363 ↵
  • (adapted from Lowry et al . [4]) ↵

Technical Writing Essentials by Suzan Last and Candice Neveu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Collaborative Writing: Process, Strategies & Advantages

Collaborative writing is mentioned as document preparation and production done by more than one writer. Collaborative writing is also mentioned as group writing and is considered as the main element in business environments.

Collaborative Writing Vs Individual Writing

A collaborative writing is one which starts outside the classroom or by a group of people.

It is mainly on collaborative writing that many organizations depend on. With collaborative writing, they make sure that their outer communications are instantly compiled, correct and coordinated.

Collaborative Writing

Ones who possess the capability to become self-supporting poets can choose for individual writing. There are many researchers who have concluded that texts produced through collaborative writing are more accurate when compared to individual writing texts.

There are various studies too which have compared the quality of compositions by using accuracy, complexity, fluency or through scores .

The accuracy was perfect when writing was done in a collaborative manner than in an individual way. Idea stimulation happens in collaborative writing and may not be in individual writing.

During the collaboration process when an individual shares his idea to the group it would really add to others ideas and the thoughts have more chances to expand from there.

When individual writing is considered, there may be a single clue where writers need to decide on their own.

The enhanced degree of creativity popped up when groups worked together in collaborative writing than in individual writing.

When collaborative writing is considered there is shared responsibility amongst people, more and more ideas would be generated and a good relationship would be developed amongst the group.

In individual writing, everything would be under your responsibility as you would write alone. In collaborative writing, the writers have to work on others schedule and if one of the writers is out for an emergency or sick the writing is paused.

There would definitely be a clash in writing styles if one is a pantser and other is a planner. In collaborative writing, the feeling would be more real than individual writing.

Collaborative Writing Process:

When a complete team contributes to writing any assignment then it is mentioned to be collaborative writing.

The key elements for successful collaborative writing are planning, leadership, division of labor, effective communication, sharing of responsibilities for results and more .

When collaborative writing is considered, planning, frequent communication, and coordination are mandatory.

If all these major elements are utilized in the right way, collaborative writing can yield you cherished experience and stunning results.

There are a few steps to be followed in a collaborative writing process. They are as follows.

Pre-writing process:

In this process, the team gets together, shares ideas and brainstorm together. They also formulate an argument or draft thesis. The final outcome, the way it should look, its purpose and intended audience should be planned.

Planning and logistics:

The project is divided into sections and assigning the project to writers is accomplished.

They should think about the final outcome of the project, arrange for meetings and schedules too.

Research data/collection:

The required sources and way to gather the sources are to be found out.

The writers are to be assigned for reading and processing of information. Finally, there should be an analysis of the data.

Drafting/ writing:

Every group member is assigned a particular section of the project. The text is composed where the team meets for collaboration.

Revising/ editing/ proofreading:

When sections of the document are drafted in a separate way. They are then merged in order to get a single document. They need to revise the structure and ideas of the paper.

Proofreading is also done to check for punctual errors, typo mistakes, formatting issues, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes.

There are few techniques or strategies which need to be followed in a collaborative writing process. When any writing plan is considered, they need to follow the below-mentioned process.

  • Description of the writing project
  • Outline of the content
  • Strategy for success
  • For each section, content responsibilities must be assigned
  • Schedule for completed parts
  • Editing as well as revising the process
  • Production data

There are other aspects too which the collaborative team should discuss and resolve.

  • Meeting plan and plans if someone is away from the project
  • Sending and receiving of the project in an effective manner
  • In case if any writer has dropped out, then drafting a plan
  • Evaluation of one another and their expected grade
  • Resolving differences of opinion
  • Roles for all the group members

The collaborative writers should make sure to exchange their contact details and also make a discussion about technical considerations.

They should make plans about merging projects to make it a single project. They need to discuss the software graphics and word processing to be used and the specific style guide to be followed.

Collaborative Writing Strategies:

Collaborative writing has been a major element for business and academic research for about two decades.

There are many strategies and they differ from author to author. Let’s run through a few of these strategies.

There are 5 collaborative writing strategies according to Lowry et al.

Single author writing:

This means that a single writer writes representing the complete team. A single author writing takes place when the writing is simple.

Parallel writing:

Parallel writing is another type of collaborative writing where the document or assignment is separated into several portions and each individual work on their assigned part.

Horizontal division parallel writing and stratified division parallel writing .

When the former is considered the task is parted into sections where every member takes responsibility for the development of the assigned section.

In the latter, the responsibility for the project development is divided amongst group members and a variety of roles are assigned for all members.

For example, few assigned roles are facilitator, editor, team leader, or author.

Sequential single writing:

In this type of writing a single group, a member writes at a time. A part of the document is assigned to every team member and they write and pass on to the next member.

Mixed mode:

In this form, more than two strategies of writing are mixed.

Reactive writing:

In order to develop the project, the team members sync. They adjust and react to each other’s contribution made.

There are 5 more strategies for collaborative writing proposed by Engle and Onrubia .

1. ‘Cut and paste’ parallel construction:

A varied part of the completed assignment is contributed by each team member and the development of the final project is done by juxtapositioning of the varied parts without the interference of other authors.

2. Sequential summative construction:

Any single member of the group would submit a document which represents the partial, initial or complete offer for the task. Here the other members would add their part to the project without altering the previously drafted one.

3. ‘Puzzle’ parallel construction:

There will be an initial document presented which is partly or entirely completed and this is contributed by every group member. By means of juxtapositioning, the final document is made complete.

4. Sequential integrating construction:

There would be an initial document which is represented by a single group member. The other group writers would contribute their part by providing alterations and their agreement with the previous work.

5. Integrating construction:

By means of synchronic discussion through chat, writing of the document is based. There would be a number of revisions and reaction through comments. There would also be changes and inclusions made by other writers.

There are 3 more strategies which are proposed by Rigano and Ritchie

Lead writing:

In this type, one individual drafts the writing and it would be amended by others.

Turn writing:

This category of writing is mentioned to be more cooperative than collaborative writing.

Here varied sections of texts are contributed by the authors and the lead author has the power to merge and harmonize them.

Writing together side by side:

Two or more individuals compose a text where they negotiate, think and refine the content loudly. There would be one who is assigned as scribe or gatekeeper for the writing.

Advantages of Collaborative Writing:

In order to maintain elevated standards of working, businesses are switching to collaboration. Collaborative writing is a practiced followed and in this process, more than one individual contributes for a writing process.

1. Quality assurance:

At times of proof-reading and editing collaboration is important as single readers cannot find mistakes easily. Hilariously bad writing can be avoided by following collaborative writing. Hence quality is assured when collaborative writing is followed.

2. Continuous improvement:

Writing is improved when a team collaborates. There is instant improvement when quick feedback is obtained. Any writing which is bad cannot live long. Hence there is enhanced improvement when collaborative writing is considered.

3. Innovation:

More innovative ideas pop up when collaborative writing is achieved. The writers are also pushed to think more in case of collaborative writing. With collaborative writing, the team comes up with more ideas and clear concepts which lead to innovation.

4. Division of labor:

A bigger project can be broken down into smaller tasks and writers can work on them individually. The work is distributed in an equal manner and each assigned writers are responsible for their contributions made.

5. Many proofreaders:

In a collaborative team, there are multiple proofreaders where editing and writing are done many times and checked too.

Disadvantages of Collaborative Writing:

1. work area conflict:.

There would definitely be working style conflict of individuals when different people are grouped together for collaborative writing. This is a disadvantage, as progress is being held up for completing the task.

2. Many faux leaders:

There would be many people who try to be the leader of the group in collaborative writing. Such kind of ill will can disturb other areas of the work environment and cause tension amongst other writers.

3. Variation in writing style:

There may be an unwanted difference in writing style in a collaborative writing project if not properly edited. The writers in the team would have a varied writing style.

Some would be pragmatists who get it done and others may be a perfectionist who procrastinates work.

4. Work delay:

When parallel collaboration is considered, anyone writer delaying the work may hold the complete project.

In the same manner, when a sequential collaboration is considered, the work is influenced by one previous writer. There will be a tough time if the writer does not get the work done on time as it makes the subsequent writer to initiate the work later.

At times when writer number 1 and 2 delay their work than the expected time, then there would be a delay in work. Since they are the initial writers their delay would provide very less time for others to complete their work.

5. More chances to get rejected:

When guidelines and styles are not followed by any one of the writers, the complete project would not be accepted for its quality and the complete project would get rejected.

6. Acknowledging writers is tough:

When a collaborative work set up is considered providing acknowledgment to the appropriate writers is mandatory.

Individuals and contributors who contributed to the project must be appreciated in a team . But in a collaborative writing team, acknowledging and identifying the contributors can be a complex process.

Hence collaborative writing is beneficial in many ways through a few disadvantages may be present. When a workplace follows collaborative efforts, then it is assured for innovative approaches for the assignment.

Collaborative writing is mandatory and needs to be followed as they develop unity, and reap great results. It is also true that collaborative writing is beneficial in creative problem solving, innovation, customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, sales and supportability, and agility .

With all these helpful aspects, collaborative writing can make your project or business successful. Hence running through the main elements for this type of writing can be profitable.

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Blended & Online Learning Design Fellows

Blended & Online Learning Design Fellows

  • Collaborative Writing

Collaborative or team writing is the process of producing a written work as a group where all team members contributed to the content and the decisions about how the group will function. Group assignments can be difficult for many students with busy schedules because they require planning, coordination, and frequent communication with other students. However, teachers nonetheless view group work as good preparation for the types of complex assignments students are likely to receive in workplace settings. Also, collaborative assignments offer students the benefits and experience of building on existing knowledge through the dynamic interplay with and among other students, the subject matter, and you, the teacher. With careful coordination and communication, group writing assignments can yield excellent results and valuable experiences. 

7 Things You Should Know About Collaborative Editing

Why Collaborate?

  • Collaboration helps students understand writing as a public, communal act, rather than as a private, isolated one. Many students write papers that make sense to them but that aren’t clear or persuasive for others. Peer reviewers help students to understand that they aren’t writing for themselves, but for readers.
  • Collaboration therefore helps student writers to develop a sense of audience. Too often students write only to please their instructors, whose expectations they rarely understand. Knowing that their peers will read their papers gives students a concrete sense of to whom they are writing, and why.
  • Collaboration helps students to better understand the conventions of academic discourse. When talking about their papers with their peers, students will learn where their readers stumble. They can also find out why. Often, these conversations lead to a better understanding of the writing conventions that the student writer has neglected or misunderstood.
  • Collaboration helps students realize that academic conventions are not simply arbitrary rules, but in fact reflect readers’ expectations. If student writers want to be understood by an academic audience, they must heed the conventions of academic writing.
  • Collaboration gives students practice in analyzing writing. It is easier to see where a classmate’s writing is going awry than it is to find flaws in one’s own prose. It is also easier to critique student writing than it is to analyze the published writing that instructors often give their students as models.
  • Collaboration encourages students to talk about their writing. In peer review sessions, students have to field questions about their writing. They have to explain and sometimes defend their writing strategies.
  • Collaboration helps students to understand writing as a process, and to increase their sense of mastery of what is often a complex and difficult task. The best way to learn something is to teach it. When instructing their peers, students learn how to improve their own prose.
  • Potential Uses
  • Pros and Cons
  • Collaborative groups draw upon the strengths of all their members. Although one student may be stronger in critical thinking skills, another may excel in organizing. By working in groups, students learn from each other while they complete assigned tasks.
  • More and more workplace activities involve project teams. Giving students opportunities to work collaboratively on academic projects can help prepare them for the advantages and pitfalls of collaborative work on the job.
  • Students working in collaborative groups can take advantage of group members for built-in peer review as they complete writing projects.
  • Not least important, collaborative writing assignments usually entail much less grading time for the instructor.
  • Diversity of Opinion: With more minds at work on the project there are more ideas and a variety of perspectives. Also, it’s highly unlikely that the group will get writer’s block as a whole.
  • Division of Labor: A group of writers can break a large project down either by tasks (research, drafting, documenting, editing) or sections. It’s important, however, that work is equally distributed and individual members are held accountable for their contributions.
  • Multiple Proofreaders: As long as there are no disagreements over grammar, it helps to have a number of people edit a writing project.
  • Conflict: With more minds, however, conflict, over either the substance or the process of the writing, becomes more likely. Yet when carefully managed, this conflict can produce better writing. Groups must also be careful not to let internal politics impede the project’s progress.
  • Differences in Style: A collaborative writing project may display an unwanted variation in writing style if not carefully edited. Also, team members might have different working styles: some might be get-it-done pragmatists while others might be procrastinating perfectionists.
  • Peer Pressure: If a team member is very quiet or unassertive, he or she will have a hard time being heard in the group setting. Collaborative writing projects, however, can be a good means by which shy people can learn to better interact with others.

What to Use?

Google docs.

Additional Sources:

  • Writing Center
  • Writing Resources
  • Learning Portal
  • Support Center
  • Store Account

process collaborative writing

Read this blog online at https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/blog/5-ways-to-build-a-strong-writing-community/

5 Ways to Build a Strong Writing Community

By Marine Freibrun | Categories: Expert Voices , Writing

One of the most important things a teacher can do is to create a classroom environment and community that fosters writing. Students need to evolve as proficient writers while also enhancing their desire to write, and teachers can do that by creating a community of writers. 

In my third-grade classroom, we built a solid community of writers through a practical and engaging approach. I modeled the writing process to my students, sharing my own ups and downs to make it clear that we were all in it together. Getting hands-on with writing alongside my students, I joined our class as a fellow writer.

I modeled the writing process to my students, sharing my own ups and downs to make it clear that we were all in it together. Getting hands-on with writing alongside my students, I joined our class as a fellow writer.

Our classroom turned into a hub of creativity where I made sure to create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for everyone to share their ideas. During our group learning sessions, energy filled our classroom as students freely shared thoughts, crafting a mix of creative stories.

Seeing the genuine pride in their eyes as they shared their written pieces, it hit me how crucial it was to create a space where each student felt heard and appreciated. In that warm and nurturing setting, creativity thrived, and writing became a shared journey for our community of emerging authors.

Creating a community of writers is one of the recommendations of the What Works Clearinghouse’s Educator Practice Guide, Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers , (Graham, et al., 2018). The authors of these practice guides combine their expertise along with research to create specific, evidence-based recommendations for educators. 

So, how can you carry out this recommendation to create a community of writers in your classroom? Here are five suggestions from the guide and my personal experience implementing each one in the classroom:

Share your writing

One of the most powerful ways to teach writing is through explicit instruction and modeling, and through sharing your own writing as a teacher. By doing this, you are participating as a member of the writing community.

As you teach writing, use metacognition while thinking through the writing process, and show your students the perseverance required to create a strong piece of writing. You can also show the satisfaction that comes when finishing a piece of work.

Some more easy-to-implement strategies to share your writing include:

  • Drafting a letter or narrative in front of students 
  • Collaborating with students on a writing project, like a class newsletter
  • Offering your own examples for writing assignments that students are completing 
  • Demonstrating how you actively decide on a topic you’re going to write about

My personal experience

Metacognition was always an effective tool to use during instruction with my students. During explicit instruction and modeling, I shared my thoughts aloud with my students. Depending on the writing activity, I would create my writing piece live—in front of and with my students.

Through this process I was not only demonstrating metacognition, but I was also creating success criteria for students to refer to as they started to complete their own writing pieces.

Provide writing choices

Students should have multiple opportunities to choose what they want to write. Giving students the freedom to choose a topic or to modify a teacher-selected topic is a powerful way to build community.

Giving students the freedom to choose a topic or to modify a teacher-selected topic is a powerful way to build community.

You can foster choice by having students keep notebooks they can use to record writing ideas, like memories or their experiences throughout the day. Give students daily access to their notebooks so they can easily add and build upon their ideas throughout the school year. In addition to keeping a writing notebook for ideas, encourage your students to write just for themselves in a journal format, or to write for their peers or an imaginary audience. 

In addition to writing choices, provide students with instruction for writing to prompts. Prompts help students to write while also making sure their writing is aligned with your instructional purpose. Make sure the writing prompt clearly states expectations for content and writing skills.

Students should also be given room to express their thinking. Using prompts can help teachers to utilize specific content standards, assess student writing, and build engagement among students. 

Giving students choice in writing can foster a love for writing, while also supporting students to practice mindfulness and enhance their creativity. To incorporate choice and mindfulness in our classroom, I instituted an end-of-the-day reflection writing session. Each student had their own spiral notebook that they used as a journal to reflect on their learning for the day.

I would sometimes give students a “free write” session where they were encouraged to write freely about their day, goals, or anything that was on their mind. Other times I would give students a specific end-of-the-day prompt to use to help guide their writing.

Collaborate as writers 

Another way to build a community of writers is to encourage your students to collaborate throughout the writing process. Students can work together while brainstorming ideas for a topic, forming writing groups during the drafting process, and by editing and reviewing each other’s writing.

Collaboration can also look like students creating a piece of writing together. Students can use chart paper to collaborate on and to display their collaborative work. Students can also work together to develop a school or class newsletter or to write stories they share with peers in other classes. 

When you collaborate as writers, you’re also honoring students’ diverse perspectives.

When you collaborate as writers, you’re also honoring students’ diverse perspectives. As mentioned in the white paper, Writing for Life: The Evidence Base for Powerful Writing Instruction , (Ramirez Stukey, M. & Eidman-Aadahl, E., n.d.), recognizing and magnifying the voices of students in writing stands as a crucial element of effective writing instruction and serves as a means to nurture the distinctive abilities and talents of each student.

Writing, being a fundamental mode of communication, should offer students the chance to articulate their perspectives in a manner reflective of their life experiences and individual voices. When students collaborate, they can amplify each other’s voices.

My favorite way to collaborate as writers was through creating a class story book. This was a great end-of-the-year activity that encouraged collaboration among students. We had a book theme, and students worked together on their individual stories—brainstorming, drafting, and giving each other feedback. The finished product was a memory of our school year together that my students could keep.

Give and receive feedback

Throughout the writing process, students need opportunities to give and receive feedback. Through feedback, students will know whether their writing is able to convey its message. Students should be sharing their writing with you, and responding to your written and verbal feedback.

Students should also be responding to their peers’ feedback and having conversations about what could improve their writing. Encourage your students to participate in the feedback process with one another. Use rubrics, teacher-student conferences, peer conferences, and writing exemplars to encourage feedback conversations. When students work together to provide each other feedback, it can enhance their understanding of their own writing.

Before sending students to give each other feedback, however, make sure your students have been explicitly taught strategies on how to provide and receive feedback. Through explicit instruction, model and provide sample language for students to use while they’re giving and receiving verbal feedback. Give students sentence frames to guide their conversations. 

Here are some examples:

  • When you wrote _____ it helped me understand _____.
  • I could picture _____ when I read _____.
  • A standout line in your writing for me is _____ because _____.

My favorite way to help students give feedback was through the Jigsaw method. I used it in a variety of ways, but the most influential way to support students with collaboration was using the Jigsaw method as a form of feedback. Engaging in this activity, students learned from one another while also learning how to give and receive constructive and effective feedback. This was also a way to collaborate and learn through a shared experience. Giving students opportunities to receive individual feedback is also a vital part of the writing process. When this is modeled, students can use those strategies during a Jigsaw activity. 

Publish students’ writing beyond the classroom

Build your community of writers by publishing students’ writing. There are so many ways to publish their work:

  • Displaying writing in the classroom on poster boards and anchor charts
  • Posting on a blog
  • Sharing through Google Docs
  • Working with a student book publishing company
  • Using web based resources (FlipGrid, Canva, etc.)
  • Creating construction paper books with binding 

You can post your students’ work outside of your classroom, too! Post their work for others to see by hanging completed writing pieces in the front office, in the hallways, or in multipurpose rooms and auditoriums. Take it one step further, and have your students complete a gallery walk that showcases everyone’s work. Have students use sticky notes to leave each other positive praise on the work. Through this activity, students’ writing will be celebrated and your community of writers is built and strengthened. 

By embracing these strategies, educators can effectively create a vibrant and supportive community of writers within their classrooms. This approach not only aligns with best practices in teaching but also empowers students to develop essential writing skills while finding joy and value in their writing endeavors.

I showcased my students’ work in our classroom in a variety of ways—anchor charts, bulletin board displays, class books, etc.—but one of my favorite ways was through an “Author’s Tea.” This was typically something I did at the end of the school year, but it could be done during any time of the school year. S tudents would choose their favorite writing piece from the year. I got fruit platters, juice, tea, and other yummy treats and decorated a classroom table with the food and flowers. I invited students’ family members to join us for tea and set out all of my students’ writing that they chose.I also set up an Author’s Chair where students could sit and read their writing pieces if they wanted to read aloud. It was a wonderful way to showcase writing and include family.

Learn more about Being a Writer .

Read more about Establishing a Classroom Writing Community: Three Essential Elements .

Graham, S., Bollinger, A., Booth Olson, C., D’Aoust, C., MacArthur, C., McCutchen, D., & Olinghouse, N. (2012). Teaching elementary school students to be effective writers: A practice guide (NCEE 2012-4058). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Insti-tute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications_reviews.aspx#pubsearch.

Ramirez Stukey, M. & Eidman-Aadahl, E. (n.d.) Writing for Life: The Evidence Base for Powerful Writing Instruction . Center for the Collaborative Classroom. Accessed from https://info.collaborativeclassroom.org/writing-for-life-the-evidence-base-for-powerful-writing-instruction.

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Why Collaboration Is Critical in Uncertain Times

  • Jenny Fernandez,
  • Kathryn Landis,

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Working together can catalyze innovation — even in risk-averse companies.

Recent research suggests that when resources become limited, many business leaders’ inclinations are to become risk-averse and protect their own interests, fostering a culture of conservatism and prioritizing stability over innovation. In such circumstances, the emphasis often shifts toward preserving existing assets, reducing expenditures, and maintaining the status quo, which can hinder the organization’s ability to adapt, pivot, and thrive in a competitive environment. However, it’s precisely during these challenging times that the untapped potential of collaboration can be a game-changer. If you’re a leader struggling with risk-taking, here are four strategies to make the mindset and behavior shifts to become more collaborative and unlock growth.

A client of ours — let’s call her Mary, a senior executive in the technology industry — faced significant challenges managing a large organization amid economic uncertainty. Both her company and industry were experiencing tough times, resulting in budget cuts and a hiring freeze. Moreover, she was tasked with exceeding her annual revenue goals to compensate for the underperformance of a struggling business line, which was beyond her direct control.

  • Jenny Fernandez , MBA, is an executive and team coach, Columbia and NYU faculty, and future of work and brand strategist. She works with senior leaders and their teams to become more collaborative, innovative, and resilient. Her work spans Fortune 500 companies, startups, and higher education. Jenny has been recognized by LinkedIn as a “Top Voice in Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, and Personal Branding” and was invited to join the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches community. She is a Gen Z advocate. Connect with her on LinkedIn .
  • Kathryn Landis , MBA, is the founder and CEO of the global coaching and advisory firm Kathryn Landis Consulting, which helps senior leaders empower and inspire their teams, create a lasting positive impact, and become the best versions of themselves in work and life. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and a former leader at American Express and Automatic Data Processing. Connect with her on LinkedIn .
  • Julie Lee , PhD, is a clinical psychologist, NYU faculty, and a leading Gen Z employment and mental health strategist. Dr. Lee’s work spans Fortune 500 companies,  startups, and higher education institutions, including Harvard and Brown University. In her consulting work, Dr. Lee helps organizations to motivate and retain Gen Z professionals and coaches executives to lead with purpose and empathy. Connect with her on LinkedIn .

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Trinity College Dublin is providing Overleaf Professional upgrades for all students, faculty, and staff who would like to use a collaborative, online LaTeX/Visual Editor for their projects. Overleaf Professional upgrades include real-time track changes, unlimited collaborators, and full document history. Overleaf Professional upgrades provide:

  • Real-time collaboration in your browser for working together on a single version of a project, with an unlimited number of authorised users. You can add and remove collaborators at any time throughout the lifecycle of your document.
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  • Full history view of your documents – see all changes made for the entire life of the document, with the ability to revert to any older version.
  • Integrated, streamlined publishing - allows you to publish easily and directly to a number of integrated submission systems, including dozens of publishing partners.
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Luke Dick Was Writing 'True Companion' for Miranda Lambert — then Realized He Was Writing It for Himself (Exclusive)

"Sometimes the focus of your own artistic perspective of what that might be if you weren't collaborating can get a little confused," the musician explains

process collaborative writing

Luke Dick assumed Miranda Lambert wanted “True Companion.”

“I knew that Miranda would go there with me,” Dick, 44, tells PEOPLE about the writing of the cosmic love story. “Miranda is a fellow traveler like me in many ways. We're a similar age, we’re from a similar region, and we have similar perspectives. And basically, I always love to get a Miranda cut and be a part of her record.”

The song, which the pair wrote alongside fellow songwriter Natalie Hemby in the middle of the night back in October of 2020, looked and sounded as if it would ultimately find a home on the track list of Lambert’s  Palomino  album , which ended up being released in April 2022.

“You write so many songs when you are in creative collaboration with someone else,” says Dick, who regularly works with not only Lambert but also Eric Church , Dierks Bentley and Jackson Dean. “Sometimes the focus of your own artistic perspective of what that might be if you weren't collaborating can get a little confused.”

Indeed, “True Companion” never found its earthly home on Palomino. Instead, it now will forever live on Dick’s album Lockeland , set to release March 15.

“When I laid all these songs out, I was like, ‘Oh, there you are,’” Dick says about “True Companion,” premiering exclusively on PEOPLE. “I had put a vocal on it and asked Miranda if she minded if I put it on my record. She immediately thought I should. And so, I changed the arrangement a bit and just felt it out and moved things around.”

And it became his.

Dick sings and plays almost every instrument on  Lockeland  — including electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, pedal steel, percussion, keyboards, drum programming, mandolin and banjo. And as one of the most respected songwriters in Nashville, Dick says that “True Companion” also hits a personal nerve right now, as it has always reminded him of his bride, Alison Love. 

“A big part of our relationship has been adventuring,” the Oklahoman says of his new wife, who he married three months ago after dating for nearly seven years. “I've never traveled so well with somebody in terms of being able to flow and feel a new place together and experience wonder in the same way. We’ve had this connection from day one, this feeling of sort of traveling the universe together in the world."

Certainly, the whole idea of love has had several different connotations throughout Dick’s life.

“I've had a storied relationship with just love in general and my belief in it,” says Dick, who’s latest co-write was with Lambert and Lainey Wilson on their song “Good Horses.” “I was actually a sensitive, romantic kid. But love needs a place for expression and growth. Is love a settling? Is love a sparkly thing or does it always lose its sparkle? I was cynical about it for a good while, and then I met Allison. It’s about being in partnership with somebody who understands you and who is willing to grow with you and ride the various waves of life and emotion together.”

This is where Dick finds himself in this moment.

“This is definitely a perspective that is me right now,” he says of the lyrical backbone of “True Companion.” “I wanted to lean into that and to be able to express it, and then also put it out there into the world and have it be seen and heard and experienced by other people.”

And yes, he realizes that some people may be hearing his actual voice for the first time on “True Companion.”

“I've been singing in my car for a good 20 or 30 years,” he says with a laugh. “I feel at home in my voice.”

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  1. 4.3 Collaborative Writing

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  2. Collaborative writing and how to implement it in your application

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  3. Collaborative Writing

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  4. 6 Things To Keep in Mind About the Collaborative Writing Process

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  1. Developing Writing Skills

  2. ISSOTL23

  3. Writing is a Collaborative Project

COMMENTS

  1. Collaborative and Group Writing

    At its best, collaborative writing can help to slow down the writing process, since it necessitates conversation, planning with group members, and more deliberate revising.

  2. Write Well With Others: A Guide to Collaborative Writing

    Collaborative writing is writing that's done by a team, rather than by an individual. It's commonly practiced in academic and professional settings, though it's completely possible (and not necessarily uncommon) to do collaborative writing as a fun creative exercise.

  3. Group Writing

    The range of possible collaboration varies from a group of co-authors who go through each portion of the writing process together, writing as a group with one voice, to a group with a primary author who does the majority of the work and then receives comments or edits from the co-authors.

  4. Collaborative writing: Strategies and activities for writing ...

    Collaborative writing is "an iterative and social process that involves a team focused on a common objective that negotiates, coordinates, and communicates during the creation of a common document" [ 3 ].

  5. Collaborative Writing Processes

    Collaborative writing strategies are methods a team uses to coordinate the writing of a collaborative document. There are five main strategies: single-author, sequential, parallel writing: horizontal division, parallel writing: stratified division, and reactive writing. Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages.

  6. Collaborative Writing

    Collaborative or team writing is the process of producing a written work as a group where all team members contributed to the content and the decisions about how the group will function.

  7. Collaborative writing: Strategies and activities for writing

    Collaborative writing is "an iterative and social process that involves a team focused on a common objective that negotiates, coordinates, and communicates during the creation of a common document" [ 3 ]. Collaborative writing can follow many different strategies [ 4 ], but five are most common [ 2 ].

  8. Strategies for Successful Collaborative Writing

    Strategies for Successful Collaborative Writing Lessons learned and applied during a recent workshop can help authors, from students to seasoned professionals, work together to produce more...

  9. Collaborative writing

    Collaborative writing is a procedure in which two or more persons work together to create a written document or content. This writing tool takes many different forms, including but not limited to academic papers, reports, creative writing, projects, and business proposals.

  10. Collaborative Writing Resources

    The collaborative process in an academic setting is a valuable, predominantly educational, experience. Many students are still growing in their ability to write and work with the writing of others. Generating a coherent product from multiple student voices (and, at times, multiple academic disciplines) may be demanding.

  11. Collaborative writing

    Writing has generally been perceived as a solitary activity, completed by the writer working alone. Yet, over the years we have witnessed a growing interest among researchers and educators in Collaborative Writing, an activity that can be simply defined as the involvement of two or more writers in the production of a single text.This interest has been driven by two main factors.

  12. 6 Things To Keep in Mind About the Collaborative Writing Process

    When authors choose to work together to write a single story, the process goes from a solitary act to one of collaboration and compromise. Here, authors Susan Meissner, Kristina McMorris, and Ariel Lawhon share six things to keep in mind about the collaborative writing process. Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner Oct 17, 2022

  13. Collaborative Writing: Definition and Examples

    Collaborative writing involves two or more persons working together to produce a written document. Also called group writing, it is a significant component of work in the business world, and many forms of business writing and technical writing depend on the efforts of collaborative writing teams.

  14. What Is Collaborative Writing? Everything You Need to Know

    This is called collaborative writing, and it involves brainstorming, writing, revising, and publishing writing projects with the help of other group members. Many moving parts happen during collaborative writing projects, and multiple writers are typically employed to complete different tasks.

  15. 4.3 Collaborative Writing

    Collaborative writing strategies are methods a team uses to coordinate the writing of a collaborative document. There are five main strategies (see Table 4.3.2 ), each with their advantages and disadvantages. Can you think of any other benefits or limitations?

  16. Collaborative writing: Product, process, and students' reflections

    Abstract Although pair and group work are commonly used in language classrooms, very few studies have investigated the nature of such collaboration when students produce a jointly written text. This study set out to investigate collaborative writing.

  17. Collaborative Writing: Process, Strategies & Advantages

    Collaborative Writing Process: When a complete team contributes to writing any assignment then it is mentioned to be collaborative writing. The key elements for successful collaborative writing are planning, leadership, division of labor, effective communication, sharing of responsibilities for results and more.

  18. Collaborative writing and process writing approach: The effect and

    In short, collaborative writing is an approach where students produce a single text in pairs or groups (Dobao, 2012;Storch, 2019). Writing collaboratively might help students to improve their ...

  19. (PDF) Collaborative Writing in Classroom Instruction: A Synthesis of

    Claim 3: Collaborative writing is effective in improving accuracy of student writing and. critical thinking. Over the past ten years, some studies have documented the effectiveness of ...

  20. PDF Implementing Collaborative Writing in EFL Classrooms: Teachers and ...

    The characteristics of collaborative learning principles that were incorporated into writing instruction including 1) joint intellectual effort and commitment by learners to produce common tasks, 2) involvement in learning or group process, and 3) individual learning as a result of group process.

  21. Collaborative Writing

    Collaborative or team writing is the process of producing a written work as a group where all team members contributed to the content and the decisions about how the group will function.

  22. Collaborative writing: Product, process, and students' reflections

    Collaborative writing improves and invigorates students' inspiration in progressing the composing abilities in some studies. A research by Storch (2005), which compared person and group on brief ...

  23. The Effects of Collaborative Writing on Students' Writing Fluency: An

    Collaborative writing is widely researched for its effects on students' writing accuracy; however, previous research studies fail to prove its effects on students' writing fluency. ... According to Lowry et al. (2004), collaborative writing is a social process in which the group members focus on a common goal, negotiate, collaborate, and ...

  24. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Harvard College Writing Center 1 Strategies for Essay Writing Table of Contents Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt ... to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a source or collection of sources, you will have the chance to wrestle with some of the ideas that you are ...

  25. 5 Ways to Build a Strong Writing Community

    Students can work together while brainstorming ideas for a topic, forming writing groups during the drafting process, and by editing and reviewing each other's writing. Collaboration can also look like students creating a piece of writing together. Students can use chart paper to collaborate on and to display their collaborative work.

  26. Why Collaboration Is Critical in Uncertain Times

    Why Collaboration Is Critical in Uncertain Times. Summary. Recent research suggests that when resources become limited, many business leaders' inclinations are to become risk-averse and protect ...

  27. Writing the Research Question

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  28. Overleaf February2024

    Overleaf is an online collaborative scientific writing and publishing tool. It is designed to make the process of writing, editing, and producing scientific papers much quicker for authors.

  29. Luke Dick Was Writing 'True Companion' for Miranda Lambert

    Luke Dick assumed Miranda Lambert wanted "True Companion.". "I knew that Miranda would go there with me," Dick, 44, tells PEOPLE about the writing of the cosmic love story. "Miranda is a ...