How to Excel at Coauthorship: Effective Strategies for Team Collaboration

Coauthorship is the act of sharing authorship of a text, application, or invention. This article summarizes research and best practices regarding coauthorship. It also provides tips you can follow in case your coauthorship blows up and becomes a bloody nightmare.

Coauthorship is enhanced by listening and respect. "Collaborating on Research" by National Eye Institute is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

What is Coauthorship?

Coauthorship refers to the practice of multiple writers sharing authorship of a text.


Co-authorship, Coauthors, Co-author

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.

Foster an Inclusive, Creative, Positive Working Environment

Encourage diversity in your team in terms of discipline, gender, cultural background, and experience level. Diverse teams often lead to richer perspectives, innovative solutions, and higher-quality research (Page, 2007; Herring, 2009; Rock & Grant, 2016; Phillips, 2014; Hoever et al., 2012).

Establish Authorship Order

This is often a sensitive issue that can lead to disputes if not addressed early. Different fields have different conventions for authorship order, so it’s crucial to establish this based on mutual agreement and disciplinary conventions.

Create a Team Charter

Team Charters can help coauthors define and agree upon tasks and responsibilities associated with writing a text.

Be Flexible

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.

Be Transparent

Open, regular, and clear communication is vital to any successful collaboration. 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. If f2f isn’t available, be sure to use video conferencing tools (e.g., Zoom), email, and project management tools (e.g., Trello).

Leverage Collaboration Tools

Collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams can help keep group communications distinct from daily chatter, which fosters focus.

Track Progress

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.

Take Responsibility

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.


What should I do when other students in my class aren’t pulling their weight?

Waiting till the due date is not a professional option. Rather, It’s advisable to speak to the teacher when

  • You’ve tried multiple times to address the issue within the group but the situation hasn’t improved.
  • The quality of the group’s work is being severely compromised due to the lack of participation from some members.
  • There’s a conflict within the group that you are unable to resolve.
  • The behavior continues over an extended period of time, affecting the group’s ability to meet deadlines.

When approaching the teacher, be prepared to explain the steps you’ve taken to resolve the issue and present any evidence of the lack of contribution from the team members in question. Be respectful and focused on seeking solutions rather than just complaining.

Remember, group work is not just about the final product, but also about learning to work as a team, which includes managing conflict and overcoming challenges. The ability to work well in a team is a valuable skill in many professional settings, so see these challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Works Cited

Herring, C. (2009). Does Diversity Pay?: Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity. American Sociological Review, 74(2), 208-224.

Hoever, I. J., van Knippenberg, D., van Ginkel, W. P., & Barkema, H. G. (2012). Fostering team creativity: Perspective taking as key to unlocking diversity’s potential. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(5), 982–996.

Page, S.E. (2007). The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Princeton University Press.

Phillips, K. W. (2014). How Diversity Makes Us Smarter. Scientific American.

Rock, D., & Grant, H. (2016). Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter. Harvard Business Review.