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SPARK: Collaboration and Group Work

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.

Collaboration and Group Work

What is permitted as group work can vary from course to course, and from assignment to assignment within a course.

Collaborating with others can help you understand and retain information, clarify confusing subject materials, and apply what you have learned. However, it is your responsibility as a student to determine what kinds of collaboration are permitted within a particular course or assignment. Ask your course instructor to clarify and provide direction about what kinds of group work and collaboration are acceptable within a particular course or assignment.

The sections below review general guidelines for acceptable group work or collaboration on assignments.

Study Groups

Study groups are common in many disciplines and courses. Working together and drawing on one another’s ideas is often expected and encouraged.

Work that is typically permissible in study groups: 

  • comparing and reviewing study notes
  • discussing and clarifying concepts
  • developing and evaluating study strategies
  • studying together for tests and exams
  • reviewing graded assignments and exams

Things to avoid in study groups:

  • copying written text, tables, diagrams, code, and charts from other students and submitting the work as your own
  • working together on an assignment when it has been designated as an individual activity

Aiding and Abetting

It is academic misconduct to encourage, enable, or cause others to commit a breach of academic honesty. See the information about aiding and abetting on the guidelines for working with integrity page.

Group Assignments and Projects

Group assignments and project-based evaluations are often used in courses to evaluate your ability to work collaboratively and contribute towards a common objective.

Work that is typically permissible in group assignments and projects: 

  • collaborating on the structure, approach and execution of an assignment
  • completing an assignment through a division of labour that has been agreed upon by the group and has been documented

Things to avoid in group assignments and projects: 

  • not keeping track of who is doing what. Many course directors will request documentation or information about each person’s contribution to an assignment
  • taking credit for work completed by another individual in the group
  • relying on outside services such as editing services or research services to complete elements of the assignment

Peer Feedback on Drafts of Assignments

In general, seeking feedback from your peers on your writing can be very valuable when it is permitted by the instructor.

In order to avoid collusion, however, ensure that you remain involved in the editing process. The process should not exclude you from the decisions being made about even minor editing choices in your paper.

Do not relinquish authorship over your paper. Rather, carefully consider feedback and the rationales driving it so that:

  • you can choose how to best make use of the feedback
  • you can learn from the feedback and become a better self-editor

To help you gather feedback from peers, consult the Peer Feedback Guide located in Resources for Academic Integrity.