When manuscripts are written in groups, it is typical for each author or team member to write one section. When the sections are all written, the team comes together to read and make the manuscript into one voice. While this is one way to write manuscripts in groups, it may not be the most efficient or time effective.


Remember, one of the goals of writing in groups is to achieve a manuscript acceptable to the entire group. With this in mind, another way to start the writing process is by writing an outline together. Each team member can prepare an outline of their section. When ready, the team members get together to critically review and agree on each section of the outline.  This will enable each team member to know about each section and to agree on the contents of each section.


The advantage of this method is that it will help prevent common errors typically found in submitted manuscripts such as including results in the methods section or writing a literature review as the introduction section. When the team works together to develop the manuscript, they can agree on the manuscript’s story, results and messages, and can move information around before the manuscript is written. Once the outline is agreed upon, the writing can begin. The resulting document will be more focused and should require less work to produce the finished product.


Establishing ground rules to write in manuscripts in groups


At Experimental Biology ’15 I attended a talk given by Dr. JC King called “Navigating Group Dynamics to Come to Consensus Scientific Opinions.” Many of her points can be applied to writing manuscripts in groups. I’ve always known about this, and it was nice to hear a fellow expert put them all together.


When writing a manuscript in a group, one of the goals is to achieve consensus. Consensus is defined as “an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole.”  Remember, you are trying to achieve a manuscript acceptable to the entire group.


With this in mind, the following ground rules can be established:

  • The process should be inclusive, and ideally include everyone involved in all parts of the manuscript.
  • The participation of all members is important. To foster this, each person’s opinion, comment or suggestion should be given equal weight, regardless of status.
  • All members should cooperate, and respect each other’s differences. Working through disagreements respectfully will build a more cohesive group.
  • The group should agree to remain solution-focused as it works towards a common solution.
  • The benefit of this process will be better decision making.
  • This will result in a well-prepared manuscript.

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