What Is Collaborative Writing?

G. Wiesen

Collaborative writing is typically a process by which more than one person is responsible for the creation and revision of a particular piece of writing. This usually surpasses the use of an editor, as two or more people are involved in the planning stages of such writing as well as the execution and revision of the writing. Such writing introduces a great deal of complexity into the writing process, since collaboration can be difficult, but can also result in a much richer and more rewarding end result. Some people also consider collaborative writing to include any writing in which more than one person’s work is used, which could include written works that cite the research or works of other writers.

Collaborative writing involves a writer and editor working closely to create a finished product.
Collaborative writing involves a writer and editor working closely to create a finished product.

Also called collaborative authoring, collaborative writing typically begins with two or more people coming together to plan out a piece of writing. This is where such work surpasses the use of an editor for a work written by a single person, since such editing usually occurs only during revision. The planning stages for collaborative writing often include the potential for debate and argument over the subject, how this subject is explored, and how work may be divided between collaborators.

Depending on how the collaborative writing is performed, the group may elect a single person to write the actual document or may divide the work among the group members. When a single writer is selected, he or she then writes the document and the group may work together to edit or revise afterward. Collaborative writing in which the entire group writes usually involves splitting the work into pieces and giving each group member an assignment. They may then work together to assemble the individual pieces together and they may all revise and edit as necessary once complete.

The process of collaborative writing can add both difficulty and greater reward to the writing process. Some collaborators may find it difficult to work together on a project, and many writers prefer to maintain greater control over their work than such collaborations afford. Multiple perspectives and voices within a written work can ultimately improve a project greatly, however, and such collaboration is common for research projects that include information beyond the scope of an individual researcher. Creative works may also benefit from more than one voice in the writing, though this often requires just the right combination of writers.

There are some people who consider any work with more than the content of a single individual to be collaborative writing. By this definition, then, any work that includes data, research, quotations, and ideas from another writer should be categorized as collaborative work. This can be the source for some debate, however, since the ideas utilized or cited in a work may be so radically challenged or interpreted that they no longer resemble the context in which they were initially presented.

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