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You may choose to or be required to form a writing group for a course. You may decide to form a group that will read and offer commentary on each member’s writing in response to course assignments, or you may be required to write a collaborative group paper. Both kinds of course-based groups share some positive characteristics:

  • You will have the same assignments, making it easy to work together to figure out the task, break the assignment down into manageable parts, and develop strategies for completing the papers.
  • You will all have a similar knowledge base. Having read the same books and attended the same lectures, your group can rely on one another to figure out complex materials and answer each other’s questions.
  • You can discuss the instructor’s expectations and strategies for meeting them.
  • Your instructor may be willing to serve as a mentor for your writing group, meeting with you periodically to discuss your progress on course projects.
  • Since you will see one another in class, it can be convenient to meet regularly either before or after the course’s meeting time, or to use the five minutes before or after class to get out your calendars and schedule meetings.

All of these factors can help your course-based writing group get started a bit more easily. For the most part, course-based writing groups work just like any other writing group—members make decisions about how the group will operate, set up a regular time and place to meet, and support one another’s writing with feedback and writing activities during and in between meetings.

Course-Based Writing Groups and Individual Writing

While any writing group can help you get feedback on your writing, a group that includes other people who are also writing papers for the same class will provide you with a collection of readers who know about the subjects you are writing about, are addressing the same questions and assignments, and are writing for same audience. That insider knowledge can make a course-based group very helpful to its members.

In courses that require lengthy research or analysis papers, a writing group that meets regularly outside of class can help you stick to a regular writing schedule, brainstorm ideas for further research, get feedback on your writing more regularly than you can from the professor alone, and learn about other students’ ideas as you develop your own long-term project. Conversely, in courses that require several short papers, the group could meet during the weeks before papers are due to figure out the assignment, brainstorm strategies, figure out which readings will be most helpful, and read one another’s drafts. Groups can also meet after members have received graded papers from the professor to talk about grades, discuss feedback, and figure out strategies to improve their next papers. Most faculty members encourage students to work together in this way. After all, talking about course materials and challenges outside of class is one more way in which students can think and learn about the subject matter. But some faculty members may wish to restrict certain kinds of writing group interactions to avoid plagiarism. If you have any questions about developing a course-based writing group, please discuss them with your professor before your group starts to meet.

Group Writing Projects

Your course-based writing group may also be required to produce a single paper collaboratively. See our handout on group writing for extensive guidance on the pleasures and pitfalls of this kind of project.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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