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A word to anyone considering an academic career as a social loafer: Karma.

Your Drexel experience doesn't end when you graduate. A diploma from Drexel contains more than just a series of classes and co-ops; it also includes the Drexel University Alumni Association, a fine group of networked Drexel alumni containing more than 100,000 people with whom you can swap tales of the shaft, Mario, and getting lost trying to find a classroom in Randell Hall.

It also means that being a uncooperative group member may come back to haunt you as you try to build your own professional network.

Taking part in your groups will help you make friends now and valuable professional contacts later.


While it is important for you to continue to work together on your group project,  a time will soon come when you will need to report your findings from your projects. You may be asked to present  as a team or report your results in a research paper. Whatever it may be, it will be important for you to build a collaborative bibliography of citations supporting your project work.
Normally, you are required to include quality reference sources in your research paper.  You can use a software called Refworks to help you collect and store your references in one place.

Refworks is a web-based software application that helps you manage citations. It helps you keep track of the sources you are using for your research and your own notes about the sources. It is web-based (no special software installation, downloads, or plug-ins required). It will also create bibliographies for you in the format you specify (APA, IEEE, etc.).

See Refworks Tutorials for more information on how to use Refworks

Refworks account:

One way to build a collaborative bibliography is to create a common group account with your group members. One member of your team creates an account with a username and password  which is shared with all team members.  Any one from your group can download citations from Summon or any databases such as Proquest Research Library, ABI Inform, or Engineering Village into a folder  within your Refworks account.  All other team members can also add references into that folder.  You can also create multiple folders for different research topics.  You can then select relevant citations to create your collaborative bibliography.


Sign up for Google account and you'll have a nice collection of collaborative tools to make your group projects easier to manage.

Google Docs
Google Docs make collaborative writing and presentations easy to use. You can use Google Docs to keep track of your meeting notes and agendas, your group goals, and other resources. Google Docs allows you to simultaneous share spreadsheets, presentations, and written documents to make it easy for everyone to contribute to the work. You can also use the "revision history" to see whose added and edited the work.

Groups for online classes need to meet, too. Even if you can't all meet in person, GTalk can be the next best thing.

Google Groups
Email is great, but it can be confusing to keep track of all your group work email. Instead, try setting up a Google Group. That way, you know that everyone is included in every thread.

What other Google product help you with your group projects?

Dear Group Work Guru,

I don't think I have anything to contribute to my group. The three other students in my group are a million times smarter and more accomplished than I am. They understand what's happening in class more than I do. Isn't it best to just let them do the work?

Struggling Student


Dear Struggling Student,

No! You should never let your teammates do all the work while you do nothing. It's great that you're in a group with talented students. This is tremendous opportunity for you to learn a lot from working with them.

Everyone has something to contribute to the group.

Offer to team-up with one of your genius groupmates to work on a smaller section of the project together. You'll learn so much by working with him or her.

You may also offer to take notes, organize team meetings, and do other administrative work to help move the project along. It'll also give you a chance to practice your project management skills.

Group-taciously yours,
The Group Work Guru

Group projects are designed for students to learn how to work with a variety of different types of people and negotiate different types of situations.

While it's good to find teammates that have different skills and experiences, it's also very important to make sure that you are able to work with those people. Teammates with different time constraints can find it especially challenging to work together successfully.

For example, let's take part-time and full-time students working together on a team:

If you are a part-time student (especially if you work full time), it may be difficult to work with a group of full-time students. Your free time is mainly on the weekends and they may prefer to meet during the week. You may find that the only time you can find to meet is after your night class. That's after a full day of work and after your class.

Also, part-time students generally have to plan ahead and finish work early, since they're working around a full-time job, family obligations, and commuting. Full-time students often work on their projects closer to the actual deadline and can set aside time during weekdays for group meetings. Having to work on projects weeks in advance can be annoying for full-time students.

We're not saying that you shouldn't try to put together a diverse team. Just be aware that students have to use time differently.


Agendas, deadlines, and taking notes will definitely get you started on the right path to successful group work, but there's one essential thing: you have to elect a project manager.

You need someone to be the Mayor of GroupWorkVille. It really helps to have someone responsible for keeping everything organized and moving forward. As you know, in a ten-week term,  a little slacking now can create an impossible  emergency later!

This sounds like a totally thankless job, right? Your group can negotiate the work involved in the entire project to make being the project manger more enticing, for example, your group's PM may get a smaller writing section or an easier section of the project.


Teamwork is more than group work! It's an organized process that requires concentration on people as well as "product".

  • Members work to establish an effective team
  • Members accept roles (which can change)
  • Meetings are structured
  • Record keeping enhances your work
  • Each member uses their own and others' skills
  • Differences are welcomed and used
  • The product is better than from simple group work

In this site you'll find practical suggestions for creating and maintaining effective teams as well as dealing with the inevitable problems that arise. There aren't absolute rules, but these have helped many teams.

Various categories for successful Teamwork:

Source: Dr. James  Mitchell in:  Teamwork: A practical guide for students


It is very important for you all to keep the communication lines open among group members in your teams. If there is a problem about a particular task that you need help with, you need to talk to other members of your team.

Group Discussion

During group meetings, do not try to dominate while sharing your thoughts and ideas.
Make sure everyone in your team gets a chance to share his views about your project.
Make sure different roles are assigned to each member during meetings and discussions.
For example, one member of the team moderates discussion,  another member takes notes of important point discussed.


Come prepared to share your ideas and ask questions. This informal conversation will help you and your team to generate good ideas for your projects.


Use your library research skills and find articles to share with your group.
Researching for information through library resources will also help.

Do you have questions about group work? Do you have a group work question that has yet to be covered by our Group Work Survival Guide?

Add your questions and suggestions to the comments and we'll answer them in an upcoming post from the Group Work Guru.

It's challenging to work with a diverse group of people. That's for sure.

An adviser here at Drexel told me this story about a group of students who had to figure out how to work together. Names and identifying attributes have been changed.

Stephen, Rashida, Ellen, and Jens were assigned to work together for a project that would take two full terms. They decided to meet each week at 7pm on Wednesdays to check in with each other to make sure that their project was on track and moving through the timeline.

Stephen, Rashida, and Jens found Ellen exceedingly difficult to work with. She would arrive to the meeting on time, but she would grow grouchier and more combative during the meetings. She was so horrible that her teammates started to talk among themselves, wondering if they could "fire" Ellen from their project. She was impossible!

Stephen, who watches a lot of reality TV, decided that they needed to host an intervention for their difficult teammate. The next Wednesday at their meeting, they decided they would talk to Ellen to try to find for her contribute positively and productively to the group.

In the "intervention," Stephen explained to Ellen that the group found her difficult to work with. The meetings started out OK, but that she seemed to get angrier and she seemed to shut down as the meeting progressed. Ellen didn't realize that she was so hard to work with and the negative impact she had on her group. She explained that she worked a part time job, went to class, and then went straight to the group. Often she hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. She didn't time to have lunch and skipped dinner to make sure that she made it to the group meeting on time.

Jens suggested that they move their meetings to Drexel Pizza, and Rashida recommended that they'd all chip in for a pizza. Ellen was relieved that she wouldn't have to meet with her group while she was so hungry, and the group was relieved that they'd found an easy solution for dealing with their difficult teammate.

Here's the lesson of this story: If your group finds one team member difficult to work with, please communicate with him/her. There may be a logical reason or an easy fix to help your team work together and succeed!


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