Best Practices for Group Writing

Writing with a group can be challenging. How do you create a document or project that takes into account everyone’s ideas, reconciles what could be different “writerly voices,” and evenly distributes the work of researching, drafting, and editing? Though there are no easy fixes or formulas for group or collaborative writing, a few guidelines can help ensure your collective writing and research experience goes smoothly.

  • Decide on the big ideas as a group. Everyone should be clear about the main ideas and purpose of the project. Each member should have a clear sense of how the different parts of the paper/project work together to form a complete thought or argument.
  • Don’t divide the work too soon. It can be tempting to delegate parts of a project immediately to each group member, but effective groups first address the big ideas for the project before breaking it into smaller units. Doing this first can prevent misunderstandings (which might lead to massive rewrites) about the content, structure, and tone of the written project.
  • Write together, if possible. Though it can be challenging to coordinate, writing together as a group allows everyone to 1) get a sense of the tone and “voice” so the writing appears as a coherent document; and 2) address ideas that might contradict or confuse the main point of the project. If it’s not possible to write together, consider working on a collaborative document like Google Docs that allows you to edit in real-time that everyone in the group can access.
  • Address big issues when revising and editing before smaller concerns. Big issues include content development, argumentation, logical order of ideas, and evidence. Smaller concerns include transitional phrases, coherence, formatting, grammatical errors, and citation formats.

Doing this remotely and online?

  • Use online meeting platforms like Zoom or Google Meet/Hangouts to regularly meet with your team members. Read this list of conferencing options available to USC students.
  • Use a shared calendar to keep everyone informed of deadlines, both internal and external, to help everyone keep track. (Google Calendar and iCal have options for sharing. Again, USC students have access to Google applications, which ensures everyone has the same accessibility)

More guidelines and tips are found in this PDF: Group Writing.

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