Group Work

Overview and Objectives

Collaboration is valued at Penn State, but it can be easy for students to unintentionally cross a line and violate academic integrity policy. This section describes some strategies to help students work together properly.

Upon completion of this section, you should be able to:

Collaborative or Group Work

Anyone who has worked collaboratively in a group before understands that one of the biggest challenges is the division of labor. Since multiple people are working together, issues of academic integrity can increase exponentially.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Know the parameters of the assignment.
    Group work comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. Is each individual group member supposed to hand in a copy of the assignment, or does the group hand one in as a whole? Is there an individualized element to the project, or does everyone complete the same thing? These are questions you need to understand before you start working.
  2. Keep the lines of communication with your instructor open.
    Is someone not doing a fair share of the work? Do you suspect that one of your group members is plagiarizing? These are issues that need to be brought to your instructor and discussed.
  3. Even if citing is “someone else’s job” make sure it gets done.  
    Your name is going to be on the paper, make sure it's done correctly so you don't get into trouble. 
  4. If you are studying together for an individual assignment or test, be sure to keep your work separate and not simply copy each other.
    In many cases, this could involve phrasing answers in an original way or using original data you have gathered yourself.
  5. Know what your instructor expects.
    Some instructors expect your work on collected homework exercises to be done independently but project work to be done collaboratively. Other instructors might expect you to work together on both homework and projects.