Research collaboration now involves significant online communication. But sending files back and forth between collaborators creates redundancy of effort, causes unnecessary delays and, many times, leaves people frustrated with the whole idea of collaboration. Luckily, there are many web-based collaborative writing tools aimed at the general public or specifically at academic writers to help. Christof Schöch looks at the different tools out there and presents some helpful tips on finding the right tool for the job.
The image of the solitary genius formulating deep thoughts in the closed confines of his dimly-lit study has never been very appropriate for research, neither in the sciences nor, most likely, in the humanities. Even in the old times, scholars were connected to each other through their books and other publications, which they would read, cite and comment on. Ultimately, writing has always been a dialogic process of intertwining discourses.
However, research projects have become increasingly complex, for example involving experts from a wide range of disciplines, so collaborative writing has become more and more widespread. Increasingly, we are collaboratively writing research proposals or project reports, copy-editing articles in a distributed manner, putting together the minutes of a conference call, managing the tasks and responsibilities of people in a project, or indeed authoring research articles and textbooks. Project members may be working in various institutions scattered around the country or around the globe. Sending Microsoft Word documents back and forth via email between collaborators just doesn’t do the trick anymore: It creates redundancy of effort, causes unnecessary delays and, many times, leaves people frustrated with the whole idea of collaboration.