Collaborative writing can mean different things to different people. It can mean writing reports in groups that meet face-to-face or blog writing on the web with multiple reviewers. Some disciplines such as business and engineering use collaboration in assignments and projects much of the time, while other disciplines such as history or biology use the methodology less often.
The following links will give an initial look at collaborative writing. Handled well, it can strengthen student writing, time management skills and interpersonal working relationships.
Clark, H.H., & Brennan, S.E. (1991). Grounding in communication. In L.B. Resnick, R.M. Levine, & S.D. Teasley (Eds.), Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition (pp. 127-149). Washington, DC: APA.
Clark, H.H. (1996). Using Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Durnell Cramton, C. (2002). Finding common ground in dispersed collaboration. Organizational Dynamics, 30 (4), 356-367.
Flower, L., & Hayes, J. R. (1981). A cognitive process theory of writing. College Composition and Communication, 32 (4), 365-387.
Lunsford, A. (1991). Collaboration, control, and the idea of a writing center. The Writing Center Journal, 12 (1), 3-10.
Neale, D.C., Carroll J. M., & Rosson M.B. (2004). Evaluating computer-supported cooperative work: Models and frameworks. CSCW Proceedings of the 2004 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. New York, NY. doi: 10.1145/1031607.1031626
Noel, S., & Robert, J.M. (2004). Empirical study on collaborative writing: What do co-authors do, use, and like? Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 13, 63-89.
Contributed by Linda Macdonald, PhD
Ideally, group writing is a positive experience that brings together multiple skills and perspectives to create a better researched, more interesting, and vibrant product than any one individual might create. Group writing enables participants to capitalize on members’ differing strengths in writing. Because members are accountable to the group as a whole, they are more likely to accomplish tasks well and on time. Group writing effectively simulates the demands of the workplace, where group and collaborative writing are expected.
In reality, group writing can be time consuming. Assimilating information into a single cohesive report is difficult. Group members do not always contribute equally. The standards may vary among group members, and while one student aims for an A, another may simply want to do the minimum required for a C. Fellow students are social peers, not work colleagues, and the threat of failure on a project is not equivalent to being fired for non-performance.
Group writing is often frustrating and always challenging. Part, or all, of your grade depends on what others do during this process, and your teammates may not share your enthusiasm or your work ethic. Outside of the university, you will also experience unfair workloads and disparities between efforts and rewards. The following steps are recommended as a way of getting through the turbulence of group writing. Following these steps will help your group move toward the ideal group experience. As with all writing, group writing is a process, and each step in the process contributes to an effective final result.
At any point in this process, you are welcome to come to the writing centre, individually or as a group, for help or feedback.