Scholarly Practice

Mastering Your Online Collaboration Skills

By Yusuf Yilmaz, PhD

Originally posted May 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many scholars struggled with online working. While there are many tools to work with, we echo the frustration of our faculty members on how to follow the methods. In this post, we are prescribing our best practice method for immersive and uninterrupted collaboration. 

Step 1

Have a convo with your team (e.g., Zoom, Webex, Skype, teleconf). Decide on your paper idea, consider doing the problem-gap-hook and outline your paper and plan-write onto a shared digital canvas on Google Docs.

Step 2

 Agree on authorship criteria (ICMJE), decide on who will be team lead. Leader can collaboratively discuss with team timeline and writing responsibilities. Put the author grid on the first as a table, and let them put their names, affiliations, ORCID, emails, phone numbers (required by manuscript central), and Twitter handles. Make assignments using Google Docs assignments. Make sure to actually SHARE the document to all since this will enable you to have email notifications of editing later.

Step 3

Set a deadline and let the team know. Consider setting up a common digital corridor (e.g., Slack, WhatsApp group, base camp, email etc.) to facilitate asynchronous discussion about the drafting.

Step 4

Collaboratively write the first draft. Don’t worry about perfection, just get your first and worst draft done. Remind your team that editing can come later. Use comment boxes to house your citations for now, so that if you move text around, the citations will move with the associated text.

Step 5

Consider another synchronous meeting. Name this first draft in the history of the Google docs so you can find it again later if need be.

Step 6

Editing phase - make everyone but the first and last author uses “suggested editing”. Everyone edits, but the lead author will then accept or reject changes intermittently to clean the article up. Once everyone has been through, the lead author will “iron out” tone, style, writing and grammar.

Step 7

Last looks - ask all authors to look once more to finalize the manuscript. This is where you will then use Zotero to add citations as a final step prior to downloading to format for submission.

Dr. Yusuf Yilmaz (@YusufYilmazPhD) is a postdoctoral fellow at McMaster University.  He is situated within the  McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Program for Faculty Development (@MacPFD), MERIT (@MERIT_McMaster), and the McMaster Department of Medicine (@MacDeptMed). He is an avid scholar in health professions education, and conducts research and scholarship within education technology.