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Graduate Student Guides

Working Collaboratively in Grad School

Benefits of collaboration:

  • Gain different perspectives on issues and different solutions
  • Learn new skills—ex. try new lab equipment, use a new framework or lens, etc.
  • Collaboration skills are needed in the workplace and everyday life
  • Possibility of additional funding and publication
  • Networking opportunities

How to begin a partnership:

  • Extracurriculars—join groups to connect with other students, build communication skills
  • Conferences and seminars—meet your colleagues, learn what they’re working on
  • Professors—get to know them and their research before asking about opportunities
  • Social media—connect with academic accounts their followers

Best Practices:

  • Common challenges: cultural differences, finding common interests, time, geographic restraints, and power differences
  • Overcome challenges with clear, frequent communication
    • Divide up work ahead of time, plan the sequence of the work
    • Share ideas you have even if you’re less experienced than your research partner
  • Create a common goal based on a win-win situation, and be prepared to compromise 
  • Ask for and offer your help, but don’t overstep boundaries if your help is refused
  • Share credit for the work and acknowledge each contribution in public presentations

Developing collaboration skills:

  • Practice expressing your ideas to new people
  • Be respectful when sharing your opinions
  • Listen to understand, not to respond
  • Trust the expertise of others; learn what your collaborators are experts in
  • Pay attention to your body language and the body language of others

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca

References

Baldwin, Roger G. and Deborah A. Chang. “Collaborating to Learn, Learning to Collaborate.” Peer Review, vol. 9, no. 4, 2007, https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/collaborating-learn-learning-collaborate

“Best Practices for Collaborating on Research.” University of Nebraskahttps://www.unl.edu/gradstudies/connections/best-practices-collaborating-research

Kroemer, Tyasning. “How to Master Collaboration Skills in the Graduate School.” Gold Biotechnologyhttps://www.goldbio.com/articles/article/how-to-collaborate-in-graduate-school

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