Collaborative Writing

Individual vs. Collaborative Writing

Much writing done outside of the classroom is done collaboratively, or with a group of people. In particular, organizations rely upon collaborative writing to ensure that their external communications are coordinated, correct, and quickly compiled.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to become self-supporting poets can continue to write individually. Most of us, however, will have to write as part of a team. The team might be an informal group of co-workers or a structured writer-editor partnership.  By studying and practicing collaborative writing in the classroom, we can develop attitudes and skills that will assist us with later professional writing projects.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaborative Writing

Although not exhaustive, the list below lists some of the advantages and disadvantages of colloborative writing:

  • Advantage-Diversity of Opinion. With more minds at work on the project there are more ideas and a variety of perspectives. Also, it’s highly unlikely that the group will get writer’s block as a whole.
  • Disadvantage-Conflict. With more minds, however, conflict, over either the substance or the process of the writing, becomes more likely. Yet when carefully managed, this conflict can produce better writing. Groups must also be careful not to let internal politics impede the project’s progress.
  • Advantage-Division of Labor. A group of writers can break a large project down either by tasks (research, drafting, documenting, editing) or sections. It’s important, however, that work is equally distributed and individual members are held accountable for their contributions.
  • Disadvantage-Differences in Style. A collaborative writing project may display an unwanted variation in writing style if not carefully edited. Also, team members might have different working styles: some might be get-it-done pragmatists while others might be procrastinating perfectionists.
  • Advantage-Multiple Proofreaders. As long as there are no disagreements over grammar, it helps to have a number of people edit a writing project.
  • Disadvantage-Peer Pressure. If a team member is very quiet or unassertive, he or she will have a hard time being heard in the group setting. Collaborative writing projects, however, can be a good means by which shy people can learn to better interact with others.

Approaching a Collaborative Writing Project

Many students dislike working with other students. However, collaborative learning has not only proved to be effective, but also prepares students for later work with organizations. Therefore, it is likely to remain a part of the college curriculum. With planning and attention, collaborative projects can be productive and enjoyable. Listed below are suggested steps for approaching a collaborative project: 

  • Select your teammates carefully. Students who have similar study habits and goals will work better together. If you are an A student, you will be frustrated working with a group of students who just want to get the assignment done.
  • Discuss each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Communication is the key to a successful collaborative writing project. Time spent getting to know about the people on the team will produce better results. 
  • Decide upon an organizational structure and create a contact list. Some groups appoint a formal leader; other groups work by consensus. Decide which method your group will use. Be sure to gather and distribute contact information for all group members.
  • Develop a project plan. A project plan lists the different tasks associated with the project, who each task is assigned to, and when the task is supposed to be completed.
  • Plan for quality assurance and contingencies. Individual group members often fail to deliver work that is in finished form. They think that someone else on the team will fix it up. Or some group members may not produce writing that is of the quality the team expects. For these reasons, it is advisable to have a quality assurance procedure–either an individual or process–that ensures the writing is coherent and scholarly. It is also advisable to have contingency or backup plans. What if the group member with the final product does not come to class on the day the project is due? How would you contact him or her and get the finished project?   

9 responses to “Collaborative Writing

  1. Lorena Chavez

    I found working in a collaborative group, a little difficult because you depend on someone else. Sometimes, there is not enough time to research your teammate. So, you can’t determine whether the person next you or across the room will befitting. Overall, working in collaboration with others can be a learning experience.

  2. Gabriela Serrano

    I like the idea of collaborative writing because you have more than one person contributing ideas, someone might bring up something you would have never thought about. Also having the work spread out amongst group members is nice, everyone can really focus on the specific section assigned. In general I think collaborative writing can be fun, productive and a good learning experience.

  3. Michelle Pedrigal

    I remember back in high school that my Government teacher informed us about collaborative work being a part of college as well. Most students usually remain in their personal groups, such as being with their friends. However, he discussed how being with friends in a collaborative work can cause a great amount of distraction. He shared with us his own experience about this and told us to try working with different students. Even though it gives us an opportunity to know others and has its own advantages, I am still not used to working with others. Sometimes, I tend to be more dependable on my group members especially if I know that they are reliable.

  4. Noah Shepherd

    Collaborative writing, while not my personal favorite, is very useful for us as college students to learn. It teaches us teamwork and an ability to work with other people. These qualities are useful for the rest of our lives as young adults and adults. A lot of companies and career paths require the use of these attributes, and perhaps even the act of writing collaboratively itself. By teaching us methods of doing this, we can better learn how to deal with other peoples’ ideas, thoughts, and opinions that may be different than our own, and sort of create compromises that satisfy both parties should conflict arise. We can also learn how to become team-players in group projects or events.

  5. The only thing I feel I took away from this collaborative assignment (besides a disdain for collaborative assignments) was a stronger ability to manage the stress, and sometimes anger, that came with the territory. Much of what was warned through the above came to be during the collaboration. People dropped out, offered unpolished drafts, and didn’t take on their work load. The climax to some of these issues transpired in the classroom right before submitting our final draft. I can honestly say that I never want to collaborate my writing with anyone again, though I can appreciate the assignment simply because I probably will sometime in the years to come.

  6. Collaboration is very important so that your task will easily achieve; but you should choose your collaborative team, that you are comfortable together with them with the same purpose.


    Much of my writing up until I came to college I thought was considered individualized. However, that thought process is erroneous. I have also begun to realize that no one does anything truly alone and by themselves. Collaborative writing at first can be very uncomfortable, merely for the fact that students tend to think of themselves first. That is not to say that they are not capable of teamwork but that takes practice. When you write, you write with the intention that someone will read it and hopefully understand it. I find the advantages far outweigh the disadvantage because the writing takes on a multiplicity representational of a group rather than an individual. I have had the pleasure to write two collaborative papers in Professor Duffy’s class and in both instances I received an “A”. Ultimately I learned a great deal in what it takes to get along with others and succeed. This is truly one of life’s better experiences. The Approach outlined in this article is a good approach for life’s challenges that eventually we will all meet as we trudge our road to happy destiny.

  8. Armine Sardaryan

    Collaborative writing can be a good and a bad idea. Sometimes it helps you get ideas from others and takes you in the right direction, but sometimes it can also confuse you and throw you offtrack. I have done collaborative writings many times and each time got a different experience from it. It can also be had because you are combining more than one style of writing which can get very complicated. Overall it is a good thing to do but we all can work on it more.

  9. S Tapia

    Being that I’m older than most students in the class and been in the business world longer, collaborative writing is something I’m use to. It’s also something I’ve done for some time especially since writing is tough for me.
    I’ve always preferred to have someone look over what I’ve written and give suggestions. So, I myself am looking forward to the collaborative writing. We’ve already decided on a topic and our premises. It will be interesting to see how this works with a younger person that’s not use to doing this type of writing.

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