Resources for Collaborative Writing Projects

Decorative: Two human profiles shaped from light bulbs, each with "idea" written in the skull area, and, where the bulbs/heads bump together "best" idea" is written (as in a Venn diagram)


The resources below are selected to help instructors in planning, assigning, and managing group-writing projects.

A. "Assigning and Managing Collaborative Writing Projects" (pdf) introduces the practice of collaborative writing, covering general considerations such as managing student interactions and expectations and evaluating the project.

It also includes two useful supplemental forms:

B. "Collaborative Writing" (doc) from Technical Writing Essentials (an open textbook) outlines the following information in easily accessible charts to help you select the specific strategies best suited to your intended assignment:

  • The stages of the collaborative writing process
  • "Collaborative writing strategies" (with pros, cons, and when to use for each)
    • Single-author
    • Sequential
    • Parallel writing: Horizontal
    • Parallel writing: Stratified 
    • Reactive writing
  • "Document management strategies" (with a description and pros and cons of each)
    • Centralized
    • Relay
    • Independent
    • Shared
  • "Collaborative writing roles" (with each described)
    • Writer
    • Consultant
    • Editor
    • Reviewer
    • Team leader
    • Facilitator

C. "Group Writing" (doc) presents useful information as you are shaping your assignment and guiding students through the writing process, including the following:

  • the "spectrum of collaboration in group writing"
  • an overview of the steps of the collaborative process (with useful links at each stage)
  • "helpful collaborative writing strategies"
  • "pitfalls" of the process -- forewarned is forearmed.

The spectrum and the pitfalls are introduced below but elaborated in the text:

1. The Spectrum of Group Writing

The spectrum of group writing: All parts of the writing process done together - All writing done together in person - Planning and editing done in person, writing done in pairs - Planning and editing done in person, writing done alone - One or two writers, with comments from others - One primary writer, with comments from others

2. The Pitfalls (each elaborated in the text)

  • "Immediately dividing the writing into pieces"
  • "Procrastination"
  • "Being a solo group member ...[ i.e.] feeling the need to take over everything"
  • "Waiting for other group members to do all the work"
  • "Leaving all the end work to one person"
  • "Entirely negative critiques"

D. "The Best Tips for Collaborative Writing" (doc), from a general writing site, provides useful tips for participants as well as helpful starter exercises to use with students to introduce collaborative writing. 

  • Each point below is elaborated with specifics in the text.

1. Tips for Participants

  • "Have clearly defined roles."
  • "Know your strengths and weaknesses." 
  • "Be able to take critiques from your partner/s." 
  • "Be flexible."
  • "Smooth out stylistic differences."
  • "Agree on a referee."
  • "Put it in writing." 
  • "Define how the process of collaborative writing will work."

2. Starter Exercises

a. "Write the opening line of a story, then pass it to the next person, and then the next person, around the circle."

  • "Every person gets to write a single sentence." 

b. "In a group of three, write a story using a single sheet of paper."

  • "Agree on each sentence before you write it down."
  • "[G]et each word perfect, because you are not allowed to revise once it’s on the paper."

c. "On a piece of paper, write down a plot outline of an opening scene, a conflict, and a resolution."

  • "[T]rade it with your partner/s and have everyone write someone else’s plot outline."

d. "Write down a list of 5 words and sketch one image."

  • "Trade it with your partner/s and write a story based on those 5 words and the image."

e. "Ask your partner to tell you a personal story."

  • "After they tell it to you once, you go and write it down."
  • "As you write, you change the story by incorporating elements from your own experience." 
  • "When you’re finished, give it back to your partner and have them edit it."

f. "Talk through an outline with your partner."

  • "Then you write the first half and they write the second half."
  • "Without either of you looking at the other person’s work, you give it to a third person who can change and edit anything they want." 
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