Tips for Successful Collaboration
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Following the four steps in the lesson called How to Write in a Group truly is the best way to conquer the challenge of group writing. In addition to these steps though, here are a few extra tips and tricks for successful collaboration.

Stay Positive

There is little question that group writing can be challenging at times. However, you would be surprised just how far a little bit of enthusiasm and positivity can go when it comes to setting the tone of the group and work to be done.

As Forbes Magazine notes, positive experiences are born out of positive people. “In order to build a positive culture, [people] need to start by encouraging positivity...It is essential to promote positivity on a daily basis. [You] can lead by example by expressing gratitude, smiling often, and remaining optimistic during difficult situations. [People] are much more likely to engage in positive behavior when they see [other people] doing so” (see "How to Build a Positive Company Culture" by Alan Kohll, August 14, 2018). In short, if you want your group writing experience to be a positive one, recognize that it starts with you. Do all you can to approach the task with a positive attitude and encourage other group members to do the same.

Start Early

A fatal error many who are new to group writing make is starting too late. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and coordination it takes to get a project off the ground and into the hands of its intended audience. Between the initial meeting (where the work is established, organized, and assigned), the actual work (being completed by individuals or smaller groups), and the final review and revision process by the larger group, the entirety of the collaboration process is actually quite large and time-consuming.

To ensure you have enough time to review and complete the work before the due date, commit now to scheduling your first meeting as soon as possible. The sooner you can organize the work and make assignments for accomplishing the work, the better your finished product will be.

Establish Communication Channels

Another oftentimes underestimated collaboration tip is that of establishing clear communication channels from the get-go. There are so many platforms of communication people tend to utilize in their daily lives. With so many options comes the distinct need for distinguishing which ones the group will use throughout the collaborative and writing process. Questions you should consider as you decide upon platforms are the following:

  • Will we ever need to meet together synchronously (live)? If so, what live meeting platform do we all have access to (for instance, Zoom, Skype, Teams, WhatsApp, etc)?
  • When not meeting together synchronously, how will we communicate questions, concerns, or individual completion of assignments to one another (for instance, email, group text, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.)?
  • When we have completed our portion of the assignment, how will we share our work with the group for combination and review (for instance, email, Word, GoogleDocs, etc.)?

Complete Your Own Assignments

A common fear many people have when they are required to work and collaborate on something in a group is, “What if one or more members of my group do not come through and complete their portion of the assignment?”

This is a valid concern and one you should consider and perhaps prepare for as you organize the work of all of your group members. An oftentimes overlooked concern and important question you should be asking is, “What if I do not come through and complete my portion of the assignment?”

As the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center points out, “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.” Once you have done that, set firm deadlines for yourself and others and plan ahead so that there is even time to cover the work of a potential absentee group member (if the need is ever there). The important thing is to not focus on that potential outcome more than your own responsibility to your group—the responsibility for you to come through and complete your portion of the assignment.

Be Respectful

Finally, if things ever do go wrong (which they might), return to the advice you were given in the first tip—choose to stay positive.

As the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center explains, “It is worth mentioning that a little respect goes a long 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.” If the work ever gets difficult or you find that another group member is not contributing effectively, “try discussing expectations with your fellow group members [first]...approach the group project as a learning experiment: you are learning not only about the project material, but also how to motivate others and work together.” In short, a little respect and open conversation goes a long way when it comes to motivating group members to contribute meaningfully and effectively.

Ponder and Record

  • Which of these five tips for successful collaboration do you think will be the hardest for you to implement? Why?
  • Which tips do you feel will help you personally accomplish the work on your upcoming group writing assignment?

Need More Help?

  1. Study other Writing Lessons in the Resource Center.
  2. Visit the Online Tutoring Resources in the Resource Center.
  3. Contact your Instructor.
  4. If you still need help, Schedule a Tutor.