My doctoral journey is full of new experiences, each its own journey into learning. Most recently, and cause for my “silence” as of late: co-authoring scholarly work. Since completion of the piece, I have taken time to reflect on my own experience and hear the stories of others’.
To be clear, this was not the first time I have collaborated, and in many contexts I prefer working with others. What makes or breaks a co-authoring experience and why was this one so challenging? I came up with 10 factors to consider in the process that apply to co-authoring but also other forms of remote collaboration. Some of these may be obvious, but I felt it was important to provide a framework from the baseline.
1. Know your co-author. Take the time to learn about them. What are their interests, the skills that can contribute to the collaboration? What is their availability and their life beyond the paper to create context? This helps build trust and rapport as creates a baseline for understanding when “life happens.
2. Know yourself. Consider the same for yourself. What are your interests and skills? What you can contribute and your availability.
3. Shared purpose. Understand the motivation for each contributor; both for the piece and why and how the piece will be used.
4. Define roles and responsibilities at the start. These can be flexible as things come up in the process, but changes need to be agreed upon and clear.
5. Cloud Sharing. Determine where documents and supporting materials will be shared and accessed.
6. Regular meetings that are recorded with action items and deadlines. Just like any process, knowing the next steps helps maintain the flow.
7. Define a clear outline / framework to work from.
8. Know where you are at. Determine structure for tracking changes and saving versions.
9. Readability. Writing styles can vary greatly; grammar, vocabulary, use of metaphors and images. Determine the best way to have a shared voice that allows the styles to work together without disrupting the flow.
10. Humility on both parts. Let the shared purpose determine the editing process, not personal opinion. Respect others work, but also their revisions if they feed the shared purpose.
I welcome your thoughts on what makes or breaks a co-authoring experience for you.
Note: The two co-authoring projects completed recently are quite different. One is to be presented at a conference in July by my co-author and the other will provide the research component to a documentary film.