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Group Research Projects

Let's be real. Almost everyone I've talked to has a horror story when it comes to working in group projects - especially in online settings. There is the time difference, communication styles, work styles, Apple vs. PC users, a whole bunch of issues that one can run into when working in groups. While we've all had these experiences, I think it can sometimes be scary to then tack on a research project that the outcomes means a potential publication.

As I've continued on in my doctoral program, I've worked in a few different group projects where our goal is to create an article that we want to submit for publication. At first, I was happy to kind of piece-meal different parts of the article and each of us have our own role to play - someone writes the lit review, someone writes the methods, someone writes the findings, so on and so forth. However, as easy as that my sound - this process can be quite difficult. I've learned so much about myself during these projects that I wanted to take a minute and write about my experiences.

First, be open to hearing different points of view. You will not be able to control the process - and you probably shouldn't. It is a team project. Therefore, it is a team process. Everyone's voice should and must be heard in order to complete a great project. This is especially important in qualitative projects where the data must tell the story. The data may be telling you one thing, while another person is getting a different story. You must be open to hear how other's are looking at what the data is telling them.

Second - part 1, stand up for what you believe is right. Second - part 2, communicate it in a way that isn't forceful. When working in groups, some will have more experience than others. Everyone brings something to the table. However, if you know something isn't being handled right (formal write-up, data handling, data analysis, etc.), you must speak up to the group. At the same time, if you are being asked to do something for the project and you don't have experience - ask for others to help. Group projects are a great way to improve your own skills while learning from others.

Third, set goals and stick to them. Everyone will have different things on their plate - kids, other classes, other studies, parents, jobs, etc. Therefore, setting clear and open deadlines for the project is a must. If something comes up and you know you won't make a deadline, communicate early and often with the group you are working with. Be honest with the amount of time and energy you have to bring to the project. Don't over-extend yourself. When you over-extend, you not only burden yourself but others who are depending on you.

Fourth, stick to the research question. It can be difficult to lose the vision of your project when it's being handed off person-by-person. It can be a little like playing telephone. One person starts with the clear message, it gets handed off where the vision or message changes just a little, and so on and so forth. By the last person, the message of the study is now far away from the original research question, or a different framework ended up being used. Have member-checks throughout the process to ensure everyone is on track and the vision is remained among all participants.

Lastly, be willing to compromise. Look at the bigger picture - the bigger the group members, the bigger the chance of people getting on different pages. At some point, decisions will need to be made. There may even be lines drawn in the sand. Someone will need to compromise to keep the project moving forward. You absolutely cannot win if you see your way as the only way to complete the project.

Have you had experience working in groups for projects or research studies? If so, what were your experiences? Do you have any tips or tricks for the group? I'd love to hear your own stories - feel free to post them below!

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