When working on group projects, there are two main aspects of the process that cause problems:
- Managing the citations/papers used by the group.
- Managing the actual document created by the group.
When trying to manage the citations or papers used by the group, RefWorks is the simplest citation manager for this task. Other citation managers like Endnote, Mendeley, and Zotero can be used for group projects, but they have their limitations. On this page we will outline how to use RefWorks to collaborate effectively in groups.
The first thing you are going to want to do to use RefWorks for a group project is to create an account for the group. Through UNC, you can create as many accounts as you want at no cost, so go to RefWorks and create an account for the group.
When signing up for a new account, you can specify the login name to be anything you want and you don't need to get fancy with the group name. If you are creating a group account for a Health Behavior class with the name HBEH600 then you could use the login name of HBEH600-BriefTitleOfGroup. If you're working on a smoking cessation project, then it can be HBEH600-Smoking.
Once you have signed up for an account be sure to email the login name and password to all the group members so each of you can access the account.
Now, each member of the group with access can add, view, edit, delete, file, and use citations in the account as usual. If you need help adding references, see our page on the topic.
Managing the document
Citing in the paper
After your group has added all the references to the group's RefWorks account, it is time to compose the document.
If there is a single person composing the document, then they can easily sync the Write-N-Cite add-on for Microsoft Word with the group's RefWorks account (see instructions for PC and Macs) and add references straight-forwardly.
If the composition involves multiple people writing different sections, then a different strategy is needed. The best option is for individual authors to manually add placeholders for their citations in the text. For example if you are citing the following article in the document
Cavaliere, R., Ciocatto, E. C., Giovanella, B. C., Heidelberger, C., Johnson, R. O., Margottini, M., Rossi-Fanelli, A. (2006). Selective heat sensitivity of cancer cells. Biochemical and clinical studies. Cancer, 20(9), 1351–1381.
then they may add the in-text citation of (CAVALIERE2006).
The reason for not adding the citation through the Write-N-Cite add-on is that when you are sharing the document between each group members it is possible that it may be corrupted by any number of factors like: different operating systems or different versions of Word. We have received panicked questions from people who have experienced this. So to be safe, use placeholder citations. Now once the document is in its final form, one group member needs to go through the document and insert the citations using the Write-N-Cite add-on and generate the bibliography.
If you'd prefer to not use the placeholder strategy, then you will want to insert all citations in a non-numbered format like APA. This is because if you are using a numbered citation style like APA or Vancouver then you can freely move the placeholders around and not worry about ensuring the citations have the appropriate numbers. With numbered citation styles, the 1st reference in the document gets the number 1, so on and so forth. If you move the previous 2nd citation above the previous first citation then the assigned numbers will swap. Using placeholders removes the need to spend extra time ensuring that all the citations have been properly formatted. You can easily switch to the desired numbered citation style when you've finished composing the document.
Sharing the document between colleagues
When you're working on a group document, you need to consider how you're going to share the document that you're working on. We'll outline the more popular ways of sharing the document and make notes about how to make that way of sharing the document a success:
|Method||Difficulty||Things to consider|
|Easy||You must remember to keep a consistent naming scheme so people can know which file they've downloaded is the most recent. For example, for the HBEH600 Smoking project example from above, name the document something like 20140206smoking so that when other group members scan through their downloads folder after downloading the email, they can easily tell what the most recent version of the document is. On all operating systems, you can sort by when files were modified, but this sort of strategy will help prevent any mishaps from occurring.|
|Sakai||Easy to Medium||Here again, you will want to use a consistent naming format so fellow group members can know what is the most recent copy. By using this option, you do eliminate the possibility of someone not getting an email (which is rare) or the possibility of someone misplacing an email. If this document isn't for a class where you can create folders in a Sakai site you all check, you can create a shared Google folder, though this requires you all to have Google accounts.|
|Dropbox||Medium||Using this method, you'd have to invite all the members of the group to the folder where you keep the shared document. But the upside of going through the hassle of using Dropbox is that you wouldn't have to worry about making sure the file name is consistent since the updated version is synced to all the other members of the group.|
|Google Docs||Medium to Difficult||You can use RefWorks with Google Docs, though it isn't as easy to use as RefWorks' Write-N-Cite plugin. We have a page setup to explain how to use RefWorks to properly cite with Google Docs. This strategy will require everyone to have a Google account and someone to share the document with all the group members, but it does provide the syncing capability of Dropbox without having to install an additional program. Since when you are using RefWorks with Google docs, you are effectively using placeholders, you also do not have to assign someone to go through the document and insert the properly formatted in-text and bibliographic citations. You can get RefWorks to do this for you!|