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Effective Writing Center (EWC)

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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Appendix B Table of Contents

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Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing

Collaborative Writing


When the major writing project is a collaborative one, first form a writing team and work together to produce a collaborative project. Each member should plan to be responsible for at least two roles on the writing team, (1) writing a specific section of the project and (2) serving as a specialist in one or more areas concerning the project. In addition to learning how to write this project, each member should coordinate his or her individual effort, knowledge, schedule, and work habits with those of the other group members. This coordination requires courtesy, thoughtful communication, and dependability on everyone's part.

Each student should keep his or her own copy of the entire assignment, with its parts, together in a portfolio or notebook as the group completes the individual assignments. The group then turns in the completed project in hard copy. If a Web format is required, then prepare an HTML version for the Web. Include the URL and instructions for accessing it with the hard copy. Each student should keep his or her own copy of everything.

Each team member should plan to write a specific section of the project— some members may write more than others depending on their roles. Roles may overlap or be shared, depending on team members' skills. Each student should take on two or more of the following roles:

  • Writer: Everyone in the group writes and revises a specific part of the project.

  • Group Leader: This person coordinates the team, organizes the writing plan and schedule (especially for group meetings), and picks up loose ends.

  • Editor: This person edits and proofreads final drafts, provides stylistic standards for the group as a whole, and guides the group in using stylistic conventions and formats.

  • Graphics Layout Artist and Production Manager: This person is responsible for project design, illustrations, layout, hard-copy and Web formats, and the printing of the final project.

  • Subject Matter Specialist: Each person is responsible for research on technical topics, assisting team members with technical problems, and testing the final project for accuracy. All members must become subject matter specialists in at least one area.

  • Webmaster: In Web projects, this person is responsible for putting the project on the Web and administering it.

Your teacher may act as manager or ask that you manage your own team writing assignment. In either case, you should plan to meet as a group and decide which roles each of you will fulfill on the team and which sections of the project each of you will write. Your group may even write a contract for each member to agree to and sign. Be sure your teacher gets copies of all of them. The tasks described here should help you manage your team writing. Plan to write all or some of them as a group.

Tasks of Members of Collaborative Writing Groups

  1. Informal progress report in the form of a memo: At the first group meeting, members present their backgrounds and what they are most interested in doing for this project. At the end of the meeting, the team writes a group progress report identifying each person's background and desired roles, describing briefly your group's technical writing/editing and production environment, and any questions, problems, or bright ideas that emerge.

  2. Subsequent informal progress reports: Thereafter, members submit weekly informal progress reports about attendance, action items, progress, and assignments. One person should act as recorder for the group during your discussion and take notes for the progress report. The recorder role should be rotated among the group members equitably. Every member should read and sign the informal progress report before it is turned in to the teacher.

  3. Editing strategy: To plan for reviewing and revising the final draft, your team must think of ways to evaluate and edit your team writing. Usually this step involves some quality control measures and a cycle of reviews for the project. This strategy should address the needs of hard-copy as well as Web formats if you are doing a Web project. Your editing strategy should

    • identify the project's readers, purpose, and uses identify the ways in which both substantive and copyediting problems will be resolved

    • present a schedule for reviews and editing
      describe how the final changes will be implemented

In essence, your team has to anticipate many of the pitfalls of writing your project. Because most editing strategies focus on copyediting (editing for mechanics, grammar, and usage) or substantive editing (editing for concept and content, organization, methodology, form, and style), your editing strategy can be written before your project is complete.

  1. Information plan: An initial planning tool, this information plan includes a purpose definition, scope definition, audience analysis, objectives, statement of purpose, tentative outline by section, production and distribution plan, tentative schedule for completing each project piece, and list of specific tasks assigned to each group member. Discuss and write this plan as a group. Your team can use the information plan to request your teacher's final approval of your project or his or her recommendations for changing the concept and scope of your project.

    Remember that your information plan is intended to help you plan the writing process and can be adjusted as you actually write the project. Ideally, to preserve its integrity, you should have very few amendments to the plan. The more detail you have in the plan, the more likely your project will prove to be well designed.

  1. Formal progress report or updated revision of the information plan: This report describes the project status and significant deviations from the initial plan and presents a revised project schedule. Submit the revised plan with a one-page memo that describes what the changes are about midway through your project.

  2. Review draft: This draft includes each section of your assignment with an example of the final project design and any graphics. If you have not yet completed a section, make space for it in your project and describe what will be in that section, how you will implement the content, and when you think it will be finished. Include a sentence or two to indicate what has yet to be finished in that section. Based on this draft, your teacher can now approve your draft or make recommendations or both.

  3. Final project: No doubt, there will be content requirements for your final project. For example, a formal report might include a title page, a transmittal letter, a table of contents, the body of the report, and any appendices. Web projects should follow conventions appropriate for that type of project.

  4. Evaluation for each team member: Every member of the team should plan on evaluating the other members in a brief paragraph. You will need to be specific and honest here so that your teacher can grade the project fairly. Consider giving each team member a grade.

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