I, Mark and my partner Louis have conducted a research on collaborative writing. Let us define collaborative writing which Louis quoted from Wikipedia – The Free Online Encyclopedia: “collaborative writing refers to projects where written works are created by multiple people together rather than individually.” We are not new to this term and we have observed many organizations that are using the approach in performing their tasks. Risky task are done by teams and not individually. It helps maintain a smooth and progressive system for reducing risk when anticipating deadlines, and has been the most influential method in decision-making. Let us not forget that writing is a medium for organizing research findings which makes it one of the most critical tasks in project management. Although it can be done by a single individual, but as the famous saying goes – “two heads are better than one.”
Individual vs. Collaborative Writing
I have found out that there is a significant difference between individual and collaborative writing. Most of it can be seen in the way the writing process is handled. Most of our findings are: In writing projects which needs an in-depth analysis about the subject being studied which is directed for decision-making, collaborative writing works best. On the other hand, individual writing is only applicable when the topic is not that broad. To help us understand the differences between individual and collaborative writing, let us first discuss the basic writing process. Majority of writing begins by composing drafts, doing revision, editing, gathering feedback, and doing further revision when required. The process goes on and on, going back and forth at its phase. By then, it is hard for a single writer assigned to a very broad topic to perform the entire task from drafting, revising, and further revising his works. When that task is done by an individual, there are many difficulties that will slow down hisher work. Louis for instance showed me a visual of what mostly occurs, “it takes greater amount of time to read references before he can precede writing drafts, it takes greater amount of time doing revision and so on”. That is when collaborative writing comes in. It reduces the complexities in writing for a very broad topic. Group and team works reduces the amount of physical time involve in completing a writing task. For instance, if the completion of portion of a whole document needs to come up after reviewing 10 reference books with 500 pages each, lesser time will be consumed when members of a group will be divided and assigned to particular books. Louis also implied rotation of roles like in volleyball game, “it is also possible to perform a rotation after at an agreed time interval where you must exchange books with your teammates. By doing it, you were able to let all members of the group have their chance of reading all 10 books. What comes after will be brainstorming and sharing of what they have understood on their readings.” Of course, we can collect ideas; compare similarities and conflicts of views from each member of the group. It further excites individual member of the group to think harder. Yes it did, as we have experience working in groups at school, there are situations where we do not want to feel like being turned down, so we keep trying hard to give brighter ideas than what others had. It also offers greater percentage of detecting errors committed by members of the group compared to errors found by an individual alone. Louis has definitely some problems with committing spelling errors, so what I did was review some portions of this essay that he has written. The more the group is in this type of situation, the more complementary and supplementary information are pooled together to come up to a general idea, which Connery and Vohs believed that it is “making the pooled knowledge greater than the sum of its parts” (Connery and Vohs, UC Davis Group Work and Collaborative Writing). In general, collaborative writing is much more reliable compared to individual writing when the writing task requires greater amount of work.
Group Structure – Important for Group Management
Let us take group structure at this point. A good group is not just composed of responsible and open-minded individuals. It is not enough. A group should have a structure. To look for the welfare of the group in general, a group leader should be selected. To support the group leader, assistant leader should also be selected which will take the role in case of the absence of the leader. And a group recorder or secretary that will record all that has been agreed by the group. In conducting the group work, each member should be assigned to particular tasks. Some will be assigned as researchers; others will be assigned for decision-making, others for editing and so on. By doing it, you can be sure that each member of the group can be monitored and measured in performance.
Effective Group Members Collaboration
However, as collaboration offers number of benefits in writings, there are pitfalls that should be overcome by the group. The group should always bear in mind that the basic of collaboration is having good communication among its members. They must remember that they are not working as two or more separate individuals, but that they should work as one. Tammaro noted that “the complexity of the writing process is magnified, as writers must also deal with the social dimension brought in by collaboration, such as the complexity of interactions and the amount of information generated by others” (Tammaro S. G., 1997). Perelman, L.C., Paradis J., Barrett E., further noted that “problems of scheduling, communication, and conflicts” will arise in groups. It is very important that before the group proceeds with writing, they must first devote time to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, knowledge gaps and learning styles. This should be done so that the group could have an insight of how the group will be divided and how each member will be assigned to particular roles. Connery and Vohs noted that there are four phases in group writing namely: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. In forming phase, this is where the group structure is formed. Each member is divided into subgroups or assigned to particular roles depending on their level of knowledge and abilities. This is where the group must decide if they should have a leader or not. But in most cases, a good leadership is the key to a group’s success, so it is much reliable if the group should suggest positions that will monitor the performance of the group. It is also important that at this early stage, a good working relationship is already established. Each member should learn the importance of his/her task in relation to the tasks of other teammates. This will serve as guidelines of how the group work should flow as they progress. Storming follows, don’t forget that each individual has their own set of standards or norms, values, and work preferences. It is also important that the goals and objectives of the group. General procedures for decision-making and problem-solving should be agreed upon. The third phase is norming. As conflicts are discovered and resolved, the group’s approach to communication and problem-solving, for better or worse is more firmly established. All conflicts in personal values and work preferences should be identified earlier and each member should be acquainted that they must need to adjust their values against each other to make the group successful. The group must understand that each other’s actions might affect the other member of the group. The final stage is performing. It refers to both devoting time to achieving the group tasks and doing effort in maintaining the unity of the group. This is where the outputs of the initial stage are tested. Although most of the initial stage involves planning, but as the group work progresses, it is hard to predict possible outcomes. Therefore the group should always anticipate that there will come a time that the only solution is to move back to previous phases. Personalities, values may be discussed, and roles may be reassigned. You might find some of your members do not fit to their roles, some do not cooperate well, and some have problems in working with their teammates. In some cases, you might have found out that your plans do not fit with the situation and therefore that should be revised as soon as possible. That should not be disregarded as it will contribute a lot to the success of the group. To monitor whatever is going on with the group, it is important to select responsible members to handle the task of checking the progress of their works, whether they have meet its goals, or whether the flow of work goes as planned.
Collaborative writing from the very beginning always implies team work. Each member of the group helps other members perform their task especially when they found out that their teammates are having difficulties in performing his assigned task. Doing the first stage in writing process, which is drafting, each member of the group who is assigned to his particular role will contribute the output of his work to the group. It is very important that submitting work output should be done on or before the agreed deadline. This will minimize loss time in workplace. Every second counts, so each member should work at his best to meet schedules. Doing proof reading and revisions of team members works are done using the strategies below.
Strategies in Collaborative Writing
There are strategies in collaborative writing that will help the group perform all phases of writing from drafting to revising, editing and so on. The work could be done in a Sequential strategy. The work is divided and assigned to group members. Whatever the outputs created by other members will serve as the starting point for the other members in doing their work. For example, an editor must first require an output from their field writers. The relationship is in sequential manner, the writer should write first, before the editor could perform editing. The next is called Reciprocal Strategy. Group members works together by giving their share in completing a particular task. Common example of this is by brainstorming. By using this strategy, each group member’s work is adjusted mutually by other members’ contribution. Group members share ideas to create drafts, and that is what reciprocal strategy implied. Another strategy is called the Parallel. At this approach, a whole writing tasks is divided into sub-tasks that can be carried out in parallel. Writers then work simultaneously and submit their works to each other. However, it is not necessary that the group will only select a single strategy. In most cases, writers shifts from one strategy into another depending upon the situation.
Writing either done individually or collaboratively, the most important is that he has knowledge of the basics of writing. When doing it collaboratively, whatever strategy is used, it always involves accepting criticism and comments from co-members of the group. Each one should learn to accept their mistakes and should cooperate towards further role assignment such as doing revision of the commented parts. Each group should have a proper feedback and evaluation system. When giving feedback or evaluation results, it is very important not to disappoint team members, but to encourage them more to cooperate and become more productive. Each group should have a proper feedback and evaluation support system that will help its members in handling different feedbacks.
In general, the success of collaborative writing has been noticeable that it has been applied to business workplace already since the past decades. Individual writing although still effective in some aspects, but is less reliable in the course of decision-making efforts.
For students, collaborative writing has given us a chance to practice the technique earlier. We were given the chance to experience the problems that were mostly encountered when we work together with other people. We found out our differences and were able to adjust to cope up with the situations that we have encountered.
Barret, E., Paradis, J., Perelman, L. The Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing. Retrieved June 22, 2008 from http://imgi.uibk.ac.at/mmetgroup/MMet_imgi/tools/mayfield/collabor.htm
Connery, B. & Vohs J. Group Work and Collaborative Writing. Retrieved June 22, 2008 from http://dhc.ucdavis.edu/vohs/sec02.html
Connery, B. & Vohs J. Group Work and Collaborative Writing. Retrieved from http://dhc.ucdavis.edu/vohs/sec04-1.html
Rossitto, Chiara (2004, March). The Writing Process and Writing Technology: A Pre-study for the Scribani Project. Retrieved June 22, 2008 from ftp://ftp.nada.kth.se/IPLab/TechReports/IPLab-219.pdf.
Tammaro S. G., Mosier J.N., Collaborative Writing is Hard to support: a Field Study of
Collaborative Writing. In Computer Supported Collaborative Work: The Journal of