Can You Work Well With a Team?

What is meant by collegiate working?   What is meant by collaborative writing?
Most often in a working environment, you will be required to work in teams to some extent to achieve an outcome. This requires advanced communication skills to agree on the purpose and audience of the writing, determine and assign tasks, work within time-frames, maximise each person’s strengths, critically evaluate work and successfully combine each person’s work into a logical and visually appealing structure.

Some personality types may disrupt collaborative efforts and it takes both skill and tolerance to put personal differences aside for the greater benefit of the task.

Typically a collaborative effort on a piece of writing would include the following staff/people:

  • Supervisor - commissions and oversees the project; assigns tasks; sets budgets and time frames
  • Technicians - provide technical expertise; may prepare initial drafts
  • Writers - research and write the documents
  • Reviewers - check the documents for technical accuracy; suggest revisions if necessary
  • Editor - copy edits the text and prepares the manuscript for printing
  • Graphic designer/Desktop publisher - prepares the diagrams and document layout
  • Proof-reader - checks final text and diagrams
  • Printer - produces multiple copies of the final document

As can be seen, each team member has very different areas of expertise, and the key to making the project work is effective liaison between members. From the outset, the team members should understand and agree on the roles assigned to them (see following section on Technical Brief). Of course, many collaborative projects have fewer team specialists; often the technical writers are responsible for the entire project, from research to writing, editing and printing.

Collaborative Writing Strategies
Decisions about organisational issues in group writing of a technical document are known as collaborative strategies. Common collaborative writing strategies used include:

  • The team plans and outlines the task, each writer prepares their part and the group compiles the parts into a document and revises as needed.
  • The team plans and writes as above, but only one group member revises.
  • The team plans and outlines the writing task; one member prepares a draft and the group revises and edits.
  • One group member plans and writes a draft and the group revises and edits
  • One group member plans and writes the draft and another member revises the draft without the involvement of the original author
  • One group member dictates and another transcribes and edits.

Appropriate Tasks and Roles
There are a range of tasks that are required to be completed in order to create a well written, professional document. The tasks can be varied and therefore require a group of people with diverse skills to undertake the tasks. For each of the tasks below, it is worthwhile thinking about the possible different team members who are responsible for each of these.

These tasks include:

  • The initial research stage
  • The overall management of the project (writing)
  • The actual writing of the first draft of the whole document (or a portion of it)
  • Reviewing the drafts of the document(s) and making relevant suggestions
  • Proofreading and editing the document
  • Designing the format, layout and visuals of the final document
  • Co-ordinating the production of the document by sending it to printers (for example only)
These tasks need to be effectively allocated to group members to ensure that the writing task is completed to a high standard. Sometimes this involves the development of a Technical Brief.
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