Coauthor or coauthorship refers to
- the practice of multiple writers sharing authorship of a text.
Related Concepts: Collaboration; Openness; Team Charter
Strategies for Improving Coauthorships
To facilitate productive partnerships on writing projects, whether you are choosing a single co-author or working in a larger group, you may find it helpful to take a honest look at your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing where you struggle can help you identify partners who have strengths in those areas. For instance, if you routinely procrastinate and suffer consequences accordingly, you may benefit from finding co-authors who help you keep on schedule.
Ideally collaborations are productive and lead to better results than you would get on your own. But sometimes coauthors fail to complete agreed upon tasks.
Collaboration can be challenging from multiple perspectives. Beyond the inherent difficulties of writing, coauthors may bring unequal talents, different and even contrary writing processes, different attitudes about a topic, and different levels of commitment for specific tasks. At times people misuse their power: they take credit for their peers’ or employees’ work product. Personality conflicts can derail a project.
Below are some strategies for effective collaboration.
Create a Team Charter
Team Charters can help coauthors define and agree upon tasks and responsibilities associated with writing a text.
When it comes to co-authoring a document, we may disagree with our coauthors about how and when to collaborate. Even after reading the same texts, we may disagree about the author’s message. We might have a different idea about what the status is of a scholarly conversation on a particular topic.
We may have disparate mindsets. Plus, composing is complex. People can have very contrary (and yet equally productive for that person) ways of writing. Thus, it’s important for you to be open to other ways of doing things. You cannot expect people to write as you would. We all have idiosyncratic practices that we’ve honed over time.
During the initial stages of a group project, it helps to sit down and define roles and expectations. Then, as the project progresses, it helps to revisit those roles and plans and revise as necessary. Frequent, face-to-face meetings can go a long ways to establishing rapport and trust among team members.
Leverage Collaboration Tools
Collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams can help keep group communications distinct from daily chatter, which fosters focus.
If you are the leader on a team project, you can nurture effective teamwork by requiring regular progress reports. Even if you’re not the leader, you can nurture productive team relationship by defining your workload, accomplishments, efforts, and goals.
Ideally when there are obstacles you can regroup with the coauthor(s) and reschedule completion of the tasks. Being kind and supportive of colleagues is vital to success.
Ultimately, no matter what happens in between, we are born alone and we die alone. Ultimately, you can only be responsible for yourself.
Sometimes things go south. In the worst case scenario, you may do all of the work of the team to the best of your ability. When that happens, try to make the most of it: learn from the experience so you can hopefully avoid it in the future.