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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


Baldwin, Roger G. and Deborah A. Chang. “Collaborating to Learn, Learning to Collaborate.” Peer Review, vol. 9, no. 4, 2007,

“Best Practices for Collaborating on Research.” University of Nebraska

Kroemer, Tyasning. “How to Master Collaboration Skills in the Graduate School.” Gold Biotechnology

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