Investigatory Project Parts

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					PRP team writing strategies
   and software tools
           Clay Spinuzzi
          Director, CWRL
the problems with writing long
• Coordination: Getting everyone pointed in
  the same direction -- in terms of objectives,
  responsibilities, and effort.
• Cooperation: Making sure everyone stays
  pointed in the same direction.
• Coherence: Producing an argument that
  hangs together.
   the five-paragraph essay
• Introduction. Thesis sentence,
• Point 1. Claim and evidence.
• Point 2. Claim and evidence.
• Point 3. Claim and evidence.
• Conclusion. Restate thesis,
 but the five-paragraph essay
           won’t help:
• This organization works fine for short,
  constrained arguments (composition
  assignments, letters of application), but not
  for longer arguments. It doesn’t scale well.
• It leads to fragmented arguments.
• It provides no support for group
• It provides no support for complex
       the research report
• Introduction. Thesis and forecasting.
• Situation and Objectives. What’s wrong,
  and what does this report do about it?
• Methods. How was the situation
• Results. What did you find?
• Discussion (recommendations). What does
  it mean (to us)?
   but the research report by
    itself is only a marginal
• It sharply divides functions in the sections.
• In group projects, those divisions often mirror
  divisions of labor and chronology.
• Those divisions lead to silos: the parts don’t
  “talk” to each other.
• Coordination, cooperation, and coherence
  issues are dealt with intuitively.
approaches to pulling together
    a collaborative report
This problem is typically handled through ad
  hoc means:
• designating a chief editor,
• subordinating work to a chief
• committing to multiple rounds of global
  revisions, or
• simply hoping for the best.
Hope is not a strategy.
pulling together a collaborative
 writing project takes work at
          three levels
• Strategic. Managerial; involves
  initiation and planning of projects.
• Tactical. Project leadership; involves
  planning and executing milestones.
• Operational. Team members; involves
  controlling, executing, and closing
      the strategic level (p1)
• Set objectives, the concrete aims the project
  will accomplish -- not just as a policy
  argument, but also as a policy document.
  (Audience, framing, limiting of claims and
• Set themes, the common threads that will
  bind together the different parts of the
  argument. (Objectives, assumptions, desired
      the strategic level (p2)
• Set standards of evidence, the standards
  that will govern what you can use to underpin
  your arguments. (Audience, disciplinary
  standards, assumptions)
• Determine the overall argument, based on
  the above. This argument may shift tactically
  during the process, but will strategically
  remain the same.
       the tactical level (p1)
• Adopt an organizational structure that will
  afford maximum flexibility and mutual
  oversight. Decentralize and core-dump.
• Set milestones that will move you to the
  strategic objective, working backward from
  the delivery date. Word these as concrete
  actions that move your team toward the
  objective. Make sure internal milestones lead
  external ones.
• Delegate milestones to team members
  during planning. These include both
  investigation and writing.
        the tactical level (p2)
• Maintain accountability by surfacing
  milestone status, progress, and concerns.
  Reevaluate progress periodically.
• Split and consolidate milestones when
  necessary. Retain tactical flexibility.
• Draft sections early, drawing from team
  interactions. (In early stages, writing is a
  byproduct of the investigatory work, not a
  separate set of tasks.)
• Work themes into the draft sections,
  monitoring conflicts and drifts.
    the operational level (p1)
• Establish and publicize style guidelines
  early by adopting a style manual, guide, or
• Establish and publicize organizational
  guidelines early by agreeing on paragraph-
  level organization (inductive, deductive) and
  chunking (long paragraphs vs. headings and
   the operational level (p2)
• Establish editorial responsibility
  (style, mechanics, organization) and
  aids (grammar checkers, checklists).
• Establish backup responsibility in
  case emergency strikes (e.g., someone
  gets hit by a bus).
    software for successful
• Collaborative project management
  (Basecamp, Zoho Projects, Wrike,
• Collaborative document editing
  (Google Docs, Zoho Office Suite,
  ThinkFree Online, Ajax13)
project management software
• Collaborative: Everyone should see the
  emerging shape of the project.
• Central yet distributed: This should
  constitute a central “core dump” of the
  group’s work, one that distributes the work
  and makes it “bus-proof.” Make sure to back it
• STO: All group members should be able to
  review the project at strategic, tactical, and
  operational levels, anytime.
           writing software
• Collaborative: Allows all team members to
  access each document, anytime.
• Versioned: Tracks changes and allows
  reversion to previous versions. (Email ping-
  pong creates versioning issues.)
• Commented: Allows all team members to
  insert comments, either in-line or attached.
          parting thoughts
• Collaborative writing is not the same as
  single-author writing. Early agreement,
  deliberation, coordination, and mutual
  accountability are critical.
• Collaborative writing is the byproduct of
  the project. These projects are less about
  the writing (putting text on the page) and
  more about the policy objectives that are
  established and met in related efforts and

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