Writing as a Team.
An essential skill in public health is the ability to effectively collaborate with teams to produce quality products, reports, or deliverables. Many courses now require team projects in public health, which reflects the increasingly collaborative nature of the public health workforce. Team projects allow you to develop your own writing and analytical skills by collaborating with your peers.
Note: BUSPH has many resources on effectively working in teams, including this module. This section will specifically discuss the team writing process, but you are strongly encouraged to review module to strengthen your team skills.
Tips for Effective Team Writing
- Timeline. One of the most overlooked team challenges is setting deadlines and establishing a timeline for the products. Many teams often follow the deadlines imposed by the instructor for the project, leaving minimal time for editing and causing unnecessary stress. To maximize effectiveness and minimize stressfulness, your team should set early deadlines. For example, if a project is due on Friday, your team should set the team deadline of Wednesday so that the final product may be compiled, edited, and reviewed by the entire team with ample time prior to submission. Furthermore, if the project is rather large, setting periodic team deadlines for smaller tasks along the way can maximize efficiency. Most importantly, stick to your schedule!
- Formatting and organization. Naturally, each team member will approach the assignment with a different writing style. As early as possible, your team should agree upon a specific formatting style and organization for the paper. This includes citations, style of writing (such as avoiding passive voice or using first-person), whether to include headings or bullet points, argument structure, length of each section, how to arrange arguments, and any other relevant formatting elements. Having this discussion early will streamline the process of compiling everything and allow the final team editor to focus on overall voice of the paper.
- Team Strengths and Task Delegation. Your team would benefit from initially assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. Determining who has a strong editing background, communication skills, data analysis skills, or organizational skills will be useful in delegating tasks. However, while each person may have a particular strength, each team member should contribute equitably to the overall project. Furthermore, your team should thoroughly discuss the organization of the paper so that arguments are not repeated in each team member’s respective section (1).
- Co-writing. Your entire team should write the introduction, transitions, and conclusion together (2). The introduction will establish a skeleton and purpose for the rest of the paper, the transitions will assist in the logical flow of the paper, and the conclusion will be the final synthesis of your arguments. Therefore, these elements require that the entire team is on the same page with their understanding of the project, that there is a shared vision, and that there is a clear direction for the final product.
- Final editing. Do not leave all the final editing to one person, as it can be very time consuming and the editor may not fully comprehend the entire vision of the project (3). At every step of the process, each team member should provide feedback, edits, and suggestions for the project. This is especially important at the end of the process with the semi-final product, prior to submitting the final version. Your team should have a final editor to provide one final scan of the document and ensure one voice, but each team member should review and edit prior to this final scan. Each person should approve the final product before it is submitted (1).
- Have fun! The team process can be stressful at times, so it is important to counterbalance the stress with fun. Maintain your sense of humor and take every opportunity to share the funny side of your challenges. The writing process may actually benefit from the comradery and enthusiasm (3). As the team becomes comfortable with one another, critiquing the work of your group becomes easier and could ultimately lead to a stronger final product.
Below are some resources to assist your team in the writing process:
- Team Writing Checklist – OU College of Business
- Group Writing – UNC Writing Center
- Tips for Successful Writing Groups
- Approaching Group Writing Projects – Washington
- Writing the Paper Together – CSU
- Writing as a Team – Corporate Writing Pro
- Writing@CSU [Internet]. [cited 2015 Jul 17]. Available from: http://writing.colostate.edu
- Business Communication Center. Team Writing Checklist [Internet]. University of Oklahoma, Price College of Business; 2010 [cited 2015 Jul 17]. Available from: http://www.ou.edu/dam/price/BCC/files/Team%20Writing%20Checklist-1.pdf
- Group Writing [Internet]. The Writing Center. [cited 2015 Jul 17]. Available from: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/group-writing/