Group writing projects, also called collaborative writing projects, can go terribly wrong if group members don’t establish and follow procedures to ensure that work is distributed evenly, completed on time, and done correctly.
First and Second Meetings
At the first meeting, create a timetable that includes deadlines and meeting times and that leaves extra time to deal with unexpected delays or problems. Decide on when and how drafts will be marked up. The group’s editor will want to know exactly what changes each group member has made to a draft, so changes will either need to be made on hard copy with a pen or with Microsoft Word’s “Track Changes” option. Decide on roles (referee, project manager, recorder, and editor(s), described below). Roles should reflect individual strengths.
At the second meeting, get everyone’s ideas and assign writing tasks. Decide if every member will write a draft of the whole paper, contribute a section, or just provide ideas and editing. Check the assignment parameters to see what is expected of group members regarding individual contributions.
Project Manager: the main organizer. This person makes sure everyone completes the work and stays on track throughout the project. If the group has to report back to an authority, the project manager speaks for the group. The project manager sets agendas and chairs group meetings.
Referee: during group meetings, the one who ensure that all ideas are heard and considered. He or she can call for votes on ideas or settle disputes that can’t be resolved through voting or negotiation. The referee should be fair and should consider everyone’s point of view.
Recorder: the one who keeps track of the ideas and planned actions (like taking minutes at a meeting). The recorder makes any necessary notes on a master draft, if one has been produced.
Editor: the one who collects all the drafts and produces a “fair” or clean copy, making it as coherent and correct as possible. The editor then returns the fair copy to all members for review and further discussion as needed. If there is basic agreement, the editor can incorporate all suggestions that work well into the draft. If there are major disagreements, the process of discussion and negotiation begins again.
When the paper is written, the editor (or the assistant editor) produces a near final draft. Every group member should proofread a copy of this draft for errors and inconsistencies. A good editor looks at spelling, grammar, punctuation, format, documentation, and accuracy. Once everyone on the team has reviewed the paper, the editor collects the drafts and makes the final call on which corrections to accept.
Assistant Editor: the one who works under the direction of the editor to help complete the editorial tasks.
The paper is ultimately the responsibility of the entire group. If one team member has incorrectly cited or if a major error remains, it reflects on all members of the group. Every team member should read the final copy and sign off on the final version.