Team Research Paper – Collaboration vs Individual Writing

Team Research Paper – Collaboration vs Individual Writing

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According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2009), “Collaboration means, to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”  When a group of people collaborate on a project there are many different ideas, styles and personalities involved.  There must be excellent communication for the project to be completed successfully.  Many teams complete a “team charter” that spells out details of the writing process, the team identity as well as addressing plagiarism and conflict resolution.

The writing process consists of prewriting, revising, editing and proofreading.  The collaborative writing process is made easier if you start by creating an outline of points you wish to cover in your project. Once the team has completed the prewriting stage of the project, you should organize your notes into paragraphs as determined by your outline. Be sure your paragraphs support your introduction and your thesis statement and flow smoothly.

According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (2009),  “Prewriting  means the creation and arrangement of ideas preliminary to writing.” Prewriting consists of researching to find information to prove or disprove a position on a given subject. According to Michelle Bergey (2000), “Pre-Writing refers to all of those things that you do before you actually start writing.  Technically, when you wake up in the middle of the night with an inspiration, that’s “pre-writing”. However, it’s a little hard to prove to your teacher that you have been pre-writing in your sleep!”

 Based on the Random House Dictionary (2009), revise means “to alter something already written or printed, in order to make corrections, improve, or update: to revise a manuscript.” During the revision process you should edit carefully for spelling and grammatical errors.  Be sure to use appropriate transitional phrases between paragraphs as well as descriptive verbs and adjectives.

As stated in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (2009), Edit means “1. To prepare (written material) for publication or presentation, as by correcting, revising, or adapting. 2. To modify or adapt so as to make suitable or acceptable: edited her remarks for presentation to a younger audience.” In these steps you are looking for ways to improve your paper. In revising, unlike proofreading, you are not looking for grammatical and spelling errors. You are looking at how your paper flows. Are you connecting with your reader?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica (2008), proofreading means “reading and marking corrections on a proof or other copy of the text of articles and books before publication. Proofreading dates from the early days of printing. A contract of 1499 held the author finally responsible for correction of proofs. In modern practice, proofs are made first from a galley, a long tray holding a column of type, and hence are called galley proofs; the term is sometimes also used for the first copy produced in photocomposition and other forms of typesetting that do not involve metal type.”  In proofreading you are watching for spelling typos and grammatical errors.

            Finally, although the steps of the writing process are the same whether completed by an individual or a team, there are some differences worth mentioning. In regards to the individual, the writing process may progress faster because it is not likely to have the scheduling issues that teams have.  On the contrary it may lack available resources, the experience of multiple members and their skills. An individual may complete the process quicker if they do not procrastinate, where it would take longer for a team to meet, review, edit and revise the same project.          “Groups have been used throughout history to accomplish many goals: groups of soldiers have waged and won wars, groups of legislators have led and repressed nations, groups of scholars have made great discoveries, and groups of entrepreneurs have created commercial giants” Winter and Neal (1995). Likewise, group writing has been an important part in history and presently is becoming progressively significant in the workplace and our daily life. Collaborative writing is particularly successful in work that demands judgment. If used correctly, collective intelligence can make the writing process more efficient and effective.

            “Two heads are better than one,” this old saying makes clear the advantages of the collaborative writing process. Having two or more persons working on a writing project increases the chances of success. According to Connery (n.d.), Group decisions have been demonstrated to be generally superior to individual decisions for four reasons:

1.      Members of the groups can offer complementary and supplementary information, perspectives, and opinions, making the pooled knowledge greater than the sum of its parts.

2.      For many of us, the simple presence of others even without interaction spurs us on to think harder and more creatively than we do by ourselves.

3.      Within groups, the most confident, conscientious, and creative members tend to prevail.

4.      Mistakes made by the group are more likely to be detected by a group member than individual mistakes are to be detected by an individual. (para. 2).

            In addition to all it’s advantages, collaborative writing is a practical way of learning. Group writing offers students the chance to develop delegation and leadership skills. Collaborative writing  creates positive tensions when members are satisfied with their roles; and in the writing process (prewriting, revising, editing, and proofreading) more opinions and more ideas are generated, creating more perspectives and increasing the number of quality choices.

            However, as the collaborative writing process has a great deal of benefits, it also has its disadvantages. Group writing experiences are not always positive, Clair (1999-2009), suggests that “A disadvantage of this process is the possibility of opposing opinions on how best to represent the given information.” (para. 4). Opposing ideas and opinions, differences in learning or working styles and personalities create negative tension in the group.

            If the group is not well organized and if patience and communication are not qualities of the members, stress and failure will result. Cooperation and compromise are essential in the collaborative writing process, if the team or some of the members lack of this virtues, the final result will not be the best. While some members do all the work, the others will get the credit but will learn nothing.

            Nonetheless according to Winter and Neal (1995), suggestions for improving the methods of handling group writing can be made.

Use the group exercises in class to provide a realistic experience similar to writing on the job (for example, use an agenda and other appropriate business source documents to establish the case).

            Designate group roles such as leader and recorder so that all students in the group get an opportunity to experience the different roles.

            Have the groups set goals before they begin any group task.

            Instruct students in appropriate interpersonal skills and group behaviors.

            As an educator, model group skills while visiting with each group as they are working. Draw out the quieter participants in each group. Also, discuss the effect of the variety of personalities on the group.

Train students in the use of structured group techniques such as playing devil’s advocate to incorporate debate into the group sessions.

            Require students to evaluate peers and assess their own group behavior skills so that they become familiar with the coping techniques that are available.

            Use the group experience for discussing appropriate time-management skills.

            Clearly, resolving any conflicts that may arise during the collaborative writing process is a key point to the way to success; however, team identity is also an important element that should be kept in mind. Team meetings and constant communication among  team members will help develop team identity; sharing thoughts and asking questions among each other can help develop strong and trustful relationships. Creating a name, a logo and or a calendar will help to represent the team. Team activities such as newsletters, display of student works and meals can help celebrate his or her identity as a team.

            The team determines if the paper is good enough and ready to be turned in when they can agree that all the necessary steps (prewriting, revising, editing, proofreading, conflict resolution, and the team identity) have been taken to make a well-written paper. The team wants to make sure the all the subjects of the paragraphs run smoothly together. They also want to make sure the paper is easy to read and is directed to the correct audience. The team will want to re-read the paper to make sure it makes sense and that there are no grammar or spelling errors. They will also have to agree that everyone in the team satisfied with the paper and is satisfied with the teams’ identity.

            Plagiarism is defined as using other people’s words or ideas without them authorizing the use of the source of the information. “Plagiarism can take many forms:

·         Buying an essay/paper from a research service, another student or online sites (papermills);

·         Handing in another person’s work with or without the creator’s knowledge;

·         Coping an entire source and presenting it as your own;

·         Copying sections from a source without proper acknowledgment;

·         Paraphrasing material from a source without proper acknowledgement.” (Wilson)

  There are proper ways to respond to plagiarism. Here are some steps a person can take to address them if the material is from the internet:

·         Look at the offenders’ website and try to figure out the ISP. Do not forget to make a note of the “Namesevers” so u can get in touch with the webhost.

·         Become aware of the advertisements on the website and try to establish its source.

·         “Complain effectively to the right parties in the right order. First, send a firm but unemotional response to the offending party. Include claim of ownership and request prompt removal of the copyrighted material. This alone may prompt the individual to act quickly. Sometimes people are unaware that material is copyrighted or believe it is protected under ‘Fair Use.’ Others will fear losing their revenue capability.” (How to Respond to Plagiarism, 2009)

·         If it is needed, send a follow-up letter. If this does not work report, the violation to the offender’s ISP.

Some other ways to deal with plagiarism is to learn how to avoid it. Here are some ways to avoid plagiarizing:

·         Talk about what plagiarism is and why and why it is wrong.

·         Make expectations obvious to the students. Let them know what is expected of them by putting it in writing and make sure there are consequences that will be followed through if they do plagiarize.

·         Teach how to do an in text citation and how to reference a cite correctly.

·         Point out and educate proper note-taking and summarizing skills.

Plagiarism falls into two extensive categories; the first one is personal gain and the second one is unintentional. The personal gain aspect is deliberate, they do it on purpose to praise themselves, and the unintentional part of it is a mistake or can be contributed to teaching and learning issues.

Plagiarism can transpire when:

·         Students do not have an understanding of what the word plagiarism means.

·         Students may have an information overload and may be uncertain about what needs to be said.

·         Having poor time management skills can cause a student to plagiarize.

·         Not knowing how to cite or even a teachers expectations may cause a student to plagiarize.

·         Poor note taking and summarizing skills.

·         On the other hand, new learners of the English Language might plagiarize.

In conclusion, collaborative writing is becoming more and more recognized in the workplace, but working together as a team can be difficult. The team will have to pre-write, revise, edit, proofread, resolve conflicts, and figure out the teams’ identity by working together.  The process may be difficult, but in the end, it will be well worth it.


American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (n.d.),

Retrieved July 07, 2009, from from

Bergey, M. (2000), The Writing Process. Retrieved July 6, 2009 from

Connery, B.A. (n.d.). Group work and collaborative writing. Campus writing center. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from

Clair, D. (1999-2009). Benefits of the collaborative writing process.  Retrieved June 30, 2009, from Unabridged (v 1.1). (n.d.),  Retrieved July 07, 2009, from


eHow, Inc. (2009).  How to Respond to Plagiarism. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from


Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. (n.d.), Retrieved July 07, 2009, from  

Wilson, D. (n.d.). Addressing Plagiarism through Improved Notetaking. ProQuest Education

 Journals , 219. Retieved July 5, 2009, from ProQuest database.

 Winter, J. K., and Neal, J. C. (1995, June) .”Group writing: student perceptions of the dynamics

            and efficiency of groups.” Business Communication Quarterly, 21(4). Retrieved, July 1,

            2009 from Gale PowerSearch database.



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