Working in Groups

Writing Tasks Suited to Group Work

Although any piece of writing can be group-authored, some types of writing simply "make more sense" to be written in groups or are ideal for cutting down on certain aspects of the work load.

Whether you've chosen to do a group project or have been assigned to work together, any group works better if all members know the reason why more than one person is involved in writing the paper. Understanding what a group adds to the project helps alleviate some of the problems associated with group work, such as thinking you need to do it all yourself. While not exhaustive, the following are some of the types of papers that are typically better written when worked on in groups. To read more, choose any of the items below:

Papers Requiring "Original" Research

Whenever you have a paper that requires you to observe things, interview other experts, conduct surveys, or do any other kind of "field" research, having more than one person to divide these tasks among allows you to write a more thoroughly researched paper. Also, because these kinds of sources are frequently hard to "make sense" of, having more than one perspective on what you find is a great help in deciding how to use the information in a paper. For example, having more than one person observe the same thing frequently gives you two different perspectives on what happened.

Papers Requiring Library Research

Although most of us might be satisfied with two or three sources in a research paper using written sources, instructors usually expect more. Working with multiple people allows you to break up library tasks more easily and do a more thorough search for relevant material. For example, one person can check Internet sources, another might have to check a certain database in the library (like SAGE) while another works on a different database more specific to your topic (e.g. ERIC for education, MLA for literature, etc.). Also, the diversity of perspectives in a group helps you decide which sources are most relevant for your argument and audience.

Any Type of Argument

Arguments, by their very nature, involve having a good sense of audience, including audiences that may not agree with you. Imagining all the possible reactions to your audience is a difficult task with these types of papers. The diversity of perspectives and experiences of multiple people are a great advantage here. This is particularly true of "public" issues which affect many people because it is easy to assume your perspective on what the public thinks is "right" as opposed to being subject to your own, limited experience. This is equally true of more "academic" arguments because each member of a group might have a different sense, depending on their past course work and field experience, of what a disciplinary audience is expecting and what has already been said about a topic.

Interpretations

A paper that requires some type of interpretation--of literature, a design structure, a piece of art, etc.--always includes various perspectives, whether it be the historical perspective of the piece, the context of the city in which a landscape is designed, or the perspective of the interpreter. Given how important perspective is to this type of writing and thinking, reviewing or interpreting work from a variety of perspectives helps strengthen these papers. Such variety is a normal part of group work but much harder to get at individually.

Cultural Analyses

Any analysis of something cultural, whether it be from an anthropological perspective, a political science view of a public issue, or an analysis of a popular film, involves a "reading" or interpretation of the culture's context as well. However, context is never simply one thing and can be "read", much like a poem, in many ways. Having a variety of "eyes" to analyze a cultural scene, then, gives your group an advantage over single-authored papers that may be more limited.

Lab/Field Reports

Any type of experiment or field research involving observation and/or interpretation of data can benefit from multiple participants. More observers help lessen the work load and provide more data from a single observation which can lead to better, or even more objective, interpretations. For these reasons, much work in science is collaborative.

Any Type of Evaluation

An evaluation paper, such as reviews, critiques, or case reports, implies the ability to make and defend a judgment. judgments, as we all know, can be very idiosyncratic when only one person interprets the data or object at hand. As a result, performing an evaluation in a group allows you to gain multiple perspectives, challenge each other's ideas and assumptions, and thus defend a judgment that may not be as subject to bias.

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Introduction