Alternative title: how to survive group projects without killing anyone.
Group projects are the bane of my existence as a college student (especially as an ENTJ college student). Let’s be real: they’re inefficient, infuriating, and generally just assigned by the prof because he/she doesn’t want to mark all that many papers. Which is understandable, to be honest.
One of the things I find most frustrating about group projects is that often your grade suffers by working with other people. What I find really ironic, however, is that often everyone’s grade suffers, because most of the time the issues have to do with organization, rather than actual ability.
Of course, sometimes it’s just an issue of you getting a slacker on your team. But not always.
Over the last three years I’ve learned a few ways to get through group projects without having to deal with a drop in grades or too much screaming or crying. There are things you can do to make your group project easier, and I hope these help!
1. Use Google Drive for all your group projects
Seriously this is a lifesaver when it comes to group projects! Stop e-mailing each other “version 1” or “version 2” or “version 347” of your assignment. That gets confusing. Instead, just create a google drive folder where all of the documents live and you can all edit the same document to make sure that you’re all on the same page. Plus, that’s great for accountability, too.
2. Get good group members
Let’s be real, this one you don’t always have control over. If you’re in a class that randomly assigns groups, I’m so sorry. But if you’re not, and you have some say as to who you work with on your group projects, try to get some kids in the class who have around the same GPAs as you do. That way you’ll be more able to trust their work to be to the standard you hold yours.
The way you do this is by talking to people in your classes. Just make friends! If you’re super into your studies and think that meeting people is a bit of a waste of time, I have to say I disagree. By socializing and getting to know your classmates you have a better chance of finding a group for your project that will actually help your group projects be a good experience that helps your GPA, rather than a terrible one that drags your hard-earned grades down, along with any joy you still have left. (A little hyperbolic, maybe, but it gets the point across.)
3. Set up deadlines early in advance for group projects
You never know if the people in your group are actually going to do the work unless you make them, so set up deadlines as soon as you get the project. Figure out when the introduction is due, when the lit review is due, when the calculations are due, everything. Then, put the calendar in your google drive folder you’ve created to remind everyone of the deadlines if they forget! Better yet, get your members to put the deadlines in their agendas right then and there. I’ve found that this helps with accountability and sets clear expectations when working on group projects especially.
4. Make these deadlines earlier than they have to be
Is your project due two weeks before finals? Have it done three weeks before. That gives you a cushion if anything goes wrong with your group projects. Think about how many times your plans go wrong for when you’re going to do what. Now multiply that by the number of people in your group. Something will go wrong. You want to be prepared for it!
In general, my friends and I write out a list of the deadlines we need to meet and then try to have that section done 3 days before each deadline, with the final project being finished a week before its due. This way you’re not worried about your group member submitting something too last-minute for you to read it over, too.
5. Give members of your group projects jobs based on their strengths
One of the main problems with group work is that it often becomes quite negative. There’s one or two students who are the alphas in the group and one or two who feel like the others just resent them being there. I hate it when that happens, and an easy way to circumvent that is to try to administer jobs based on talents, preferences, and strengths.
For example, I did a group project with some of my friends for a stats course where one member was in charge of the introduction, conclusion, and rationale because she was excellent at writing a convincing argument; another was in charge of the literature review, because she knew APA formatting like the back of her hand; and I did the statistics because I’m the only person in the entire universe who loves statistics.
Something you have to remember is that it’s OK if the workload isn’t even in group projects. It’s never really going to be even, but if everyone is doing something that they feel they’re good at, your project will do better. That’s why we learn to do group work, in my opinion–because it teaches us to collaborate. And collaboration doesn’t always mean equal share–sometimes it means encouraging others in their strengths to do what’s best for the group, even if it means shouldering a bit more of the load.
6. Have designated group work time
This has only worked for a few of my projects, but if at all possible, find a time during the week where all of your group can get together to work on the project, and make it a weekly or bi-weekly thing. Depending on the project, this could be you actually all crunching numbers together or simply having a meeting to brainstorm what to do in the next section or how to improve the current one. But get together periodically to make sure you’re on the same page.
7. Appoint one member to be the overall editor
This is where Google Docs comes in handy for group projects. After everyone submits their section, each individual can go in and make comments or suggestions using the “review” option in Google Docs. Then, one person actually makes the changes he/she thinks fit to make sure the assignment is grammatically correct, reads easily, and has good transitions between the different sections. This should be someone who is good at grammar and writing. If you’re doing some sort of research element in your project, also have someone go and double-check all of the citation formatting at the end of the project. It’ll save you so much hassle in the long-run!
Give your group members the link to my post on how to write a college research paper! Trust me, with multiple people working on the same project it can get really confusing. This is the system that I use in all of my papers and with my group projects, as well and it’s worked for all of us!
So there you have it. My complete guide to group projects. You may not believe me after I ranted about them in my post on being a ENTJ in college, but I actually don’t mind research projects anymore as much as I used to, and I really believe it’s because I’ve come down with this pretty helpful system! I hope it can help you, too!
What are some of your best tips for doing group work? What are some things NOT to do when working with others on a project? Let me know in the comments!
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