Group Essay-Writing: A Rant

With the topic of this extra-blog post being pretty open-ended, I’ve decided to do what I do best: be snarky and criticize things. I was talking to a friend yesterday about a business school class that she’s taking (and that I took last year). One of the assignments is to write a paper. Pretty standard right? The catch is that it’s a group paper. Basically, each 6 person group turns in one paper. So how can a group approach this? In my mind, there are 3 major options:

1) One person writes the entire paper.

2) Six people write different parts of a paper, and the group attempts to stitch the parts together Frankenstein-style. The six parts will inevitably be written in six different styles with overlapping content. The group will then spend a ridiculous amount of time normalizing the styles and removing the overlapping content. This method takes at least 10x longer than method 1.

3) The group writes the paper together. Essentially, six people verbally discuss the paper on a sentence-by-sentence basis until they are in agreement. People will disagree on everything, so this option will take even more time than option 2.

Option 1 sucks because one person does all the work. Option 2 sucks because Frankensteining and then de-Frankensteining a paper takes forever. Option 3 sucks ever more than option 2 because it takes even more time. Therefore, the group must agree on which of these options is the lesser of the three evils. This makes the project frustrating and borderline nonsensical. Last year, my group chose option 2 and I naively volunteered to stitch everything together. I ended up spending more time putting the different pieces together than I would have just writing the whole essay myself. The only positive thing I can say about this assignment is that it teaches students how to finagle themselves out of an inefficient project structure. In business, similar situations will inevitably arise when a client gives a team a chunk of work that can’t be split into pieces. So in a sense, the project was a good exercise in navigating situations that seem doomed to fail. But as a whole, I think group essay-writing is a mostly pointless exercise and hopefully I won’t have to do it again soon.

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