Writing Manual

Group Effort Analysis & Tips for Writing a Group Paper

Tips for Writing a Group Paper

group of students working together in a study room
Group Study Room, Leiden University Library” by Libr~CommonsWiki is licensed under a CC-BY 3.0 unported license.

Most papers that scientists write result from the collaborative efforts of two or more researchers. There is a clear expectation that all authors listed on primary literature have made significant and equitable contributions to carrying out the research and in writing the paper itself.  In other words, all authors listed should be able to independently answer “big picture” questions (e.g., justification for study, conclusions about hypothesis) raised by reviewers about the work presented. We model this collaborative nature of science in Biocore by requiring students to work in teams to carry out lab research projects. We also provide a few opportunities for you to get experience writing a collaborative group paper. Here are our expectations and tips for writing group papers:

  • Group papers take longer – Organize your team to begin writing as soon as possible.
  • Communicate regularly -make sure everyone has the information they need and understands the scope of the task.
  • Each team member must make an equivalent contribution – One person should not shoulder the burden of writing for the team.
  • Agree upon a common outline for the paper – The entire team should agree on the conclusions made based on data collected and on the logical argument that will be made to support these conclusions.
  • Shoulder to Shoulder OR Divide and Conquer? – Some teams can sit shoulder to shoulder and compose a paper together. Others find it efficient to assign one to two people per section (Intro, Methods etc..) followed by a peer review by each teammate. If you choose the latter, you need to agree as a team on the final structure and content of the paper.
  • Make it flow- Once sections of paper have been combined and edited, the draft needs to be reviewed and revised so that it flows logically. Before submitting to your TA each person should have a final review for approval.

You will evaluate your group experience using the following Biocore Group Effort Analysis rubric.

Group Effort Analysis (GEA) Rubric





Attendance and punctuality at meetings Member frequently absent or late, and did not inform or contact team about absence or tardiness Member present and on time at most meetings/lectures. When absence necessary, often informed team members and worked to resolve issues associated with absence. Present and punctual at all meetings/ lectures and communicated if any extenuating circumstances or irregularity occurred.
Participation in data collection, data analysis Member did not actively participate in discussion and did not contribute to group progress. Most of the time made an attempt to understand the assignment and participates in the discussion. Meaningfully participated in all discussions, anticipated future needs of the group, and took initiative in monitoring group progress.
Preparedness for meetings Did not prepare prior to class/group meeting. Most of the time prepared prior to meeting time with ideas/questions to discuss. Came prepared for all meetings with ideas/questions to discuss.
Ability to listen to ideas/concerns of others Did not listen to or attempted to ignore ideas or concerns of others. Consistently dominated or withdrew from discussions. Patiently and actively listened to ideas and concerns of others most of the time Helped develop an atmosphere in the group where everyone’s ideas and concerns are heard by modeling patient and active listening.
Ability to cooperate and/or compromise Practiced competitive, uncooperative group behaviors that inhibited the group from achieving goals. Worked cooperatively most of the time and compromised to help group achieve goals. Welcomed discussion and critique of ideas in a supportive, cooperative positive environment. Worked to overcome negative, competitive group dynamics if necessary. Encouraged group to maintain high standards of group conduct.
Participation in project planning Member did not actively participate in discussion and did not contribute to planning project. Made an attempt to understand the assignment and participate in the discussion. Contributed meaningfully and participated in all discussions to plan the project.

Peer Review

Another way you will be working in groups or pairs is through peer review, which is an opportunity for you to give and receive peer feedback on your papers before you turn them in to be graded by your TA.  Writing is a form of communication and a peer can tell you whether or not your paper makes sense.  It is to your advantage to take seriously your responsibility to review a peer’s paper.  We find that the review process benefits the reviewer as well as the author because it gives you practice evaluating a paper applying the same criteria your TA will use to evaluate your paper.

Note that you do not need to wait for us to assign a formal review to take advantage of the peer review process.  You can always get together with another student and act as reviewers for each other’s papers even when it is not required as part of an assignment!

Peer review is a skill that takes practice. Use the following criteria when you are learning how to peer review. In order to help you become a more skilled peer reviewer, we will ask you to hand in your peer review comments to be evaluated by your TA. Your TA will use these same criteria to evaluate your peer review.

Peer Review Rubric





Focus on “Global Concerns” (larger structural, logic/reasoning issues) rather than detailed “Local Concerns” (spelling, grammar, formatting) Does not identify missing components.

Comments are restricted to spelling, grammar, formatting and general editing.

Identifies most components as present or absent.

One or two global concerns comments on a paper that required more focus there. Major comments are focused at the local concerns/ editing level.

Can identify all components of paper as present or absent. Provides logical and well reasoned critique. Recognizes logic leaps and missed opportunities to make connections between parts of paper.   Provides a good balance of comments addressing ‘global concerns’ together with minor comments addressing ‘local concerns’
Thorough constructive critique including a balance* of positive and negative comments Review is entirely positive or negative with little support or reasoning provided. Good comments, but not balanced as positive and negative or not supported with reasoning Supports author’s efforts with sincere, encouraging remarks giving them a foundation on which to build for subsequent papers. Critical comments are tactfully written.
Evidence of thorough reading and review of paper Comments focused on one or two distinct issues, but not on the overall reasoning and connectedness of all sections in paper.   Obvious that reviewer did not read the entire paper or skimmed through to quickly to understand. Evidence that the reviewer read the entire paper, but did not provide thorough review. Comments on all parts of paper and connections between paper sections. Comments are clear, specific, and offer suggestions for revision rather than simply labeling a problem. Appropriate comment density demonstrates the reviewer’s investment in peer review, while not overwhelming the writer.
Outlines both general and specific areas that need improvement and provides suggestions Review is too general to guide authors revision or too specific to help author on subsequent papers Provides both general and specific comments but no suggestions on how to improve. Supplies author with productive comments, both general and specific, for areas of improvement. General comments are those that authors may use in subsequent papers, whereas specific comments pertain to the specific paper topic and assignment. Comments come with suggestions for improvement.

Download Biocore rubrics in PDF format





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Process of Science Companion Vol. 1 Copyright © 2017 by University of Wisconsin-Madison Biocore Program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.