Collaborative writing is a method of group work that takes place in the workplace and in the classroom. Researchers expand the idea of collaborative writing beyond groups working together to complete a writing task. Collaboration can be defined as individuals communicating, whether orally or in written form, to plan, draft, and revise a document.[1] The success of collaboration in group work is often incumbent upon a group's agreed upon plan of action. At times, success in collaborative writing is hindered by a group's failure to adequately communicate their desired strategies.[1]


Collaborative writing refers to a distributed process of labor involving writing, resulting in the co-authorship of a text by more than one writer.[2][3][4]

  • Interaction between participants throughout the entire writing process. Whether it be brainstorming, writing a draft of the project, or reviewing.[5]
  • Shared power among participants. Everyone included in the project has the power to make decisions and no group member is in charge of all the text produced.[5]
  • The collaborative production of one single and specific text.[5]

Collaborative writing is a regular feature of many academic and workplace settings.[6] Some theories of collaborative writing suggest that in the writing process, all participants are to have equal responsibilities. In this view, all sections of the text should be split up to ensure the workload is evenly displaced, all participants work together and interact throughout the writing process, everyone contributes to planning, generating ideas, making structure of text, editing, and the revision process.[7] Other theories of collaborative writing propose a more flexible understanding of the workflow that accounts for varying contribution levels depending on the expertise, interest, and role of participants.[8]


In Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies, scholars have demonstrated how collaborative learning in U.S. contexts has been informed by John Dewey’s progressivism in the early twentieth century.[9] Collaboration and collaborative writing gained traction in these fields in the 1980s especially, as researchers reacted to poststructuralist theories related to social constructionism and began theorizing more social views of writing.[10]


Collaborative writing processes are extremely context-dependent.[11][12] In scholarship, on both academic and business writing, multiple terminologies have been identified for collaborative writing processes, including:

  • Single Author writing or Collegial: one person is leading, they compile the group ideas and do the writing.[13][14]
  • Sequential writing: each person adds their task work then passes it on for the next person to edit freely.[13]
  • Horizontal Division or Parallel writing: each person does one part of the whole project and then one member compiles it.[13][4]
  • Stratified Division writing: each person plays a role in the composition process of a project due to talents.[13]
  • Reactive or reciprocal writing: group all works on and writes the project at the same time, adjusting and commenting on everyone's work.

    Often, collaborative writing is used in instances where a workload would be overwhelming for one person to produce. Therefore, ownership of the text is from the group that produced it and not just one person. Researchers Joy Robinson, Lisa Dusenberry, and Lawrence M. Halcyon conducted a case study investigating the productivity of a team of writers who utilized the practice of interlaced collaborative writing and found that the team was able to produce a published article, a two-year grant proposal, a digital and physical poster, a midterm research report, and conference presentation over the course of three years. The writers used virtual tools such as Google Hangouts' voice feature for group check-ins, to hold group discussions, and to write as a group. Google Docs was used to allow each team member to edit and add writing to a shared document throughout the writing process.[16]

    Views on collaborative writing

    Linguist Neomy Storch, in a 2005 Australian study, discovered that reflections pertaining to collaborative writing in regards to second language learners in the classroom were overwhelmingly positive. The study compared the nature of collaborative writing of individual work versus that of group work, and Storch found that although paired groups wrote shorter texts, their work was more complex and accurate compared to individual works. The study consisted of 23 total participants: 5 doing individual work and 18 working in pairs. The pairs consisted of two male pairs, four female pairs and three male/female pairs. The age range was 19 to 42 years old and all participants originated from Asian countries. Paired groups were equipped with recorders and encouraged to talk through their writing task. After tasks were complete, 1–4 days later paired groups were interviewed individually about their experience in collaborative writing; interviews were also taped. Post-assignment interviews revealed that the majority of students (16) yielded positive opinions about group work, but two students felt that group work is best reserved for oral activities and discussions rather than writing assignments.[17] For example, one interviewee outlined the fact that in group work ideas are freely exchanged and when reading a paragraph, each person in the group can pick out important ideas in the paragraph. According to another interviewee, collaborative writing allowed students to learn from each other by watching each other work. Apart from the academic aspect of collaborative writing, four respondents argued that group work is a fun and enjoyable activity. The majority of interviewees gave positive reviews, but one argued that group work was difficult when it came to criticizing another's work and another argued that there is a power imbalance when writing is based on ability. The two students who were stark opponents of collaborative writing revealed that it was hard to concentrate on their work and they were embarrassed by their supposedly poor English skills.[17]

    Doctoral student Jason Palmeri found that when it came to inter-professional collaboration, most of the issues stemmed from miscommunication. In differing disciplines, one person may have a level of expertise and understanding that is foreign to another.[18] The article gave the example of a nurse and an attorney having different areas of expertise, so therefore they had differing understanding of concepts and even the meaning of the same words. While much of the issues resulted from miscommunication, the article claimed that some nurse consultants resisted change in terms of altering their writing style to fit the understanding or standards of the attorneys.

    As an educational tool

    Collaborative writing is used by educators to teach novice authors of all ages and educational levels to write. Collaborative writing helps push participants to explore, discuss and help with learning capabilities. Collaborative writing corporate by contributing ideas with others.[19] The quantity of learning and growth. In the past ten years, most studies say that most students are motivated in collaborative writing because of their improvement in writing competencies. When students work in groups, it generally produces shorter yet better text such as grammatical accuracy and fulfillment. It gives students ideas and gives them information.

    A study conducted by Stephen Bremner, an English professor at the City University of Hong Kong, investigated eight business communication textbooks to test the depth in which they provided students with a knowledge of collaborative writing in the workplace and how to execute those processes. The study found that, generally, textbooks highlighted the role of collaborative writing in the workplace. Textbooks listed the pros of collaborative writing such as saving time, more superior documents due to each individual's strengths and specialized knowledge, a well-crafted message due to team work, balanced abilities, and an interest in accomplishing a common goal.[1]

    The article claimed that the textbooks examined gave students a basic knowledge of collaboration in the workplace, but they also lacked the information that showed students the realities of collaborative writing in the workplace with few activities presented in the textbooks that mirror collaborative activities in the workplace. Much of the activities that featured group work seemed more idealistic rather than based in reality, where the writing process occurred in only controlled and orderly environments. Bremner also found that group work in the classroom also did not properly simulate the power hierarchies present in the workplace.[1]