Appendix B: Collaborative Writing & Peer Reviewing

Peer Reviewing

When a classmate asks you to review his or her paper and provide feedback, you should take that task seriously. Many students want honest feedback on their writing and feel cheated if they receive cursory, highly critical, or highly uncritical feedback on their work. Obtaining a peer review is an opportunity to test your writing before you turn it in for a grade. Feedback may be verbal or written. Here are some guidelines you and your classmates can use to review one another's writing:

    1. Exchange copies of your writing with your peers. The papers should be double-spaced with margins of 1.5 or even 2 inches to accommodate written comments.

    2. Review and comment on the paper by writing brief, specific comments in the margins. Place a checkmark by a good point and an x by an error or problem point. Always point out good things about the paper: praise is praiseworthy!

    3. Pay attention to larger issues: don't worry about smaller details, such as punctuation and spelling at this point. Circle them and move on.

    4. Number the paragraphs as you read them so you can refer to the numbers when critiquing the organization and the logic of development in your summary comments.

    5. Write summary comments at the end, addressing the larger issues, such as clarity, conciseness, accuracy, and readability. Sign and date your copy and return it to the writer.

    6. Try to answer the following questions when reviewing your peers' papers:

For those whose papers are being reviewed, the job of listening to feedback is an active and engaging, but quiet job. When you hand over your paper to a peer reviewer, don't spend time apologizing for its content or your presentation of the information. Don't tell your reviewer what kind of responses you want to hear and explain or defend something in your paper. Above all, your responsibility is to listen carefully to the feedback and take notes for future revisions. Don't interrupt the reviewer except to ask for clarification. If you have received your feedback in writing, review the comments carefully a time or two, and then ask for clarification should you not understand a comment.

Collaborative Writing

Writing Plan

The collaborative group assignment is intended to be one where the entire team contributes to the writing. The key ingredients of successful group work are leadership, planning, effective communication, equal division of labor, and equal sharing of responsibilities for results, as well as courtesy, thoughtfulness, and dependability.

For group writing projects, planning is especially important because writers tend to write in solitude from established plans and directions. When a group agrees on the nature and scope of the writing project and develops an agreed-to plan or outline, responsibilities are clear. When due dates are met, the work stays on schedule. A writing plan should include the following:

Collaborative Writing

Issues to Resolve

In addition, writing groups should discuss and resolve ahead of time some of the following issues:

Groups should also plan to exchange contact information and should discuss technical considerations, such as how the writing will be merged into a single project, what word processing and graphics software will be used, what style guide will be followed, and who will make decisions about editorial and content disputes.

Often, following workplace standards for collaboration will lead to success. Remember, nevertheless, that the purposes for college writing differ from those for workplace writing. In the workplace, for example, strong group members often carry weaker members in the interest of getting the work done. College writing emphasizes and values both the learning and writing processes as well as the final product.

Collaborative Writing

Assignments to Accompany the Group Project

Often, a team can manage the collaborative assignment by using some group reporting techniques from the workplace. By planning the writing and reporting regularly to your teacher, you can keep the project on target and get guidance from your teacher when you need it. As a team, your collaborative writing group should plan to write the following for your assignment:

These tasks are described in a box in the following section on methodology.

Collaborative Writing

Metholology

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:

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

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.

Collaborative Writing

Sample Informal Progress Report

The informal progress report should be in the form of a weekly memo that tells your teacher what progress your group has made on the assignment. Use a standard memo format, but consider designing your own group logo or style for the memo. These reports should contain the following information:

Members of the team should initial or sign off on each progress report. Include members' names and contact numbers, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses, so that your teacher can easily contact you or your group as needed.

Collaborative Writing

Peer Evaluation

Your group should discuss the criteria on which you will evaluate one another. Items you might want to include are listed below.

You should decide what it means to meet these criteria successfully and what constitutes failure. Your team might consider a separate evaluation form for your leader. The criteria to consider for a project leader's evaluation might be:

Conclusion

The ability to collaborate in a team project is an invaluable skill in today's workplace. Although many students will benefit by this experience, many will struggle to participate successfully. It's in everyone's interest to have a strong project team. By following these guidelines, your collaborative team project can be successful.

Collaborative Writing
     • Peer Evaluation

Your group should discuss the criteria on which you will evaluate one another. Items you might want to include are listed below.

You should decide what it means to meet these criteria successfully and what constitutes failure. Your team might consider a separate evaluation form for your leader. The criteria to consider for a project leader's evaluation might be:

Conclusion

The ability to collaborate in a team project is an invaluable skill in today's workplace. Although many students will benefit by this experience, many will struggle to participate successfully. It's in everyone's interest to have a strong project team. By following these guidelines, your collaborative team project can be successful.

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