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Writing in groups with international co-authors: Part Two by Karen Strickland

In her second post, Karen Strickland outlines the benefits of collaborative writing groups that involve a range of International scholars. She finishes by providing some great tips for International writing that we are sure are perfect for #acwrimo! Karen’s full bio can be read here and you can also follow her on Twitter @strictlykaren

I am currently participating in a collaborative writing group (CWG) as part of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL). ISSOTL set up nine CWGs in Spring this year, each led by an experienced author. Group members were invited to apply via the conference website and in April we began planning our articles via an online learning space. In October at the conference itself, we had two days group working time where we revised our draft outlines, developed the theoretical underpinning a bit more and peer reviewed other group outlines as well as had our paper outline reviewed. This process is very different to anything I have experienced before as the co-authors were all strangers to me, and all are from countries other than the UK, therefore cultural views and ideas of the paper topic were coming from very different lenses. At times this could be challenging but ultimately it was rewarding as I found myself viewing things more openly and gaining insight into the worlds of others. The two days we spent in Canada together helped immensely with the group gelling together, and overcoming some of the challenges of communicating with strangers asynchronously.

The benefits of this approach, I think are that we shared a passion for the topic of the paper and the international authorship has ensured that the paper truly addresses the issue from an international perspective.  The potential drawbacks maybe that for the shyer or less mouthy participant, views may be overshadowed, however I found the experience to be collegiate with clear differences of opinion and experiences but an understanding that all may coexist without one being right or wrong.

With mutil-authored papers like this one there are a number of considerations such as what platform to work on, achieving a consistent “voice” and negotiating authorship. We had the online space provided by the McMaster University but agreed to use Dropbox to work on the paper as drafting and version control would be easier using a cloud based platform.  One person has been designated “editor” and will review the paper for clarity of expression and blending the writing to ensure it reads as one paper.

As for authorship, I think it is always wise to discuss this early in any grouping or partnership, as who will be first author and thereafter can be a contentious issue. One of the issues that faced us was that the journal we will be submitting to will adopt the American Psychological Association (APA) referencing system. This means that the final two authors will be et al’d. It is worth bearing in mind all such issues when negotiating authorship and considering each individual’s contribution may be the best and fairest way of deciding with a caveat that order may be reviewed once all the drafting is done.

Our paper is not yet complete but what have I gained from the experience so far? Well, this was a very new approach to writing in groups for me and I now have some fellow co-authors internationally who I know have shared interests. Who knows, perhaps we will write again together?

Tips for international writing:

  1. Agree on a focus and journal early on
  2. Set deadlines
  3. Decide on language and spelling. English is most common but American English or English needs to be agreed
  4. Negotiate contributions: sectioning the article (may need to be done once you have an outline)
  5. Discuss and agree authorship
  6. Select an online platform that allows easy access for all contributors
  7. Set up a discussion site and agree how often each participant should log in to discussion areas
  8. Where possible set aside time for synchronous discussion, either face to face or online via Skype or similar
  9. Select an editor who will pull the article together so that it reads as one article and not a disjointed piece of writing

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