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Getting Started in a Lab

If you are a new graduate student in the sciences, you will rotate through several labs during your first year at the University of Washington. Your challenge is to find the right lab for you — one that best matches your intellectual interests and that helps prepare you for your career.

How to get started in a lab

  • Sample a range of lab environments and cultures. Find a lab that will help you develop as a researcher.

Find out what the ground rules and expectations are.

  • How many hours are you expected to be in the lab? (Remember that research is not a 9 to 5 job; you should look forward to hanging out in the lab—but also make sure you know specific expectations for your time).
  • What’s the definition of “progress” in lab work? What’s the definition of progress in graduate work in your discipline?

Look for opportunities that will benefit your career.

  • Will you have an opportunity to publish?
  • Will you get credit—as an author, co-author—for the work you do in the lab? Will your intellectual work really be your own? Seek a lab that gives ownership of your ideas to you.
  • Will you have a chance to push beyond the boundaries of particular grants?
  • Will you be able to collaborate with other labs?

Be smart.

  • The best lab is not necessarily the one that pays the most.
  • Success is not always about being comfortable— so look for a lab where you will be pushed a bit.

How to evaluate labs

Both established and new labs have great merit.

  • In an established lab, find out: What’s the lab’s track record? Where have people ended up working after their lab experience?
  • Recognize that some younger faculty—who do not have well established labs and therefore do not have the same track record as established labs—often bring the newest ideas to the discipline and are often willing to spend time with graduate students. Such labs might be a better place to try new things.
  • Where do people in the lab publish? In top-tier journals?
  • Ask other students about the labs.
  • Trust your instincts.

Be clear about your own expectations for mentorship in a lab.

  • How often would you like to meet with faculty mentors? (Make sure that the time you request is for the most pressing matters; don’t waste time on minor details that you can find out elsewhere).
  • Can you get on the mentor’s calendar? (Ask other graduate students in the lab about the nature and extent of mentorship).

Make good use of your lab work: Publish early and publish often.

  • Publications are the currency of success.
  • Publications are a guaranteed path to a relatively carefree thesis preparation.

How to succeed in a lab

  • Participation is the key to any successful lab. A successful lab draws on a variety of skills, so contribute.
  • Recognize that a good lab is one with mutual mentorship; that means you need to contribute, too. As a first-year student, you may well have expertise that others in the lab don’t have. Be a good citizen; contribute the work. Recognize that you have the potential to be a valuable contributor from the very first day you walk in the door.
  • Learn from others and support others in the lab. Recognize the expertise of all of your lab colleagues (faculty, visiting scientists, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, and even high school students).
  • During your first year, complete at least one research paper.

by Tom Daniel, professor, Biology

Succeeding in a Graduate Seminar

Some of your most important and impression-forming interactions with your classmates and professors occur in graduate seminars. Your stellar performance in graduate seminars is paramount to your success in the graduate program. Graduate seminars are the building blocks for your knowledge in the field and in graduate school.

How to succeed in a graduate seminar

Prepare for class

Do the reading. All of it. But don’t stop there. Annotate your reading. Ask questions of the text in the margins. Maybe even type up your notes. Always consider what’s at stake in the reading, how the reading informs your understanding of the class themes, other course materials, the methods, the content. How does the reading relate to your own burgeoning research questions?

Come to class with questions and discussion points. If you are reticent about speaking in class, recruit a friend to chat about your ideas for five minutes the day before class. Do not, however, memorize one point in the reading so that you make your one perfunctory comment in class. Everyone is on to that game!

In class

Do your part to help foster community. This means: Listen. Participate fully. Be respectful.

Showcase your intellectual curiosity by engaging with all types of ideas, not just the ones in your designated area of study.

When you speak, remember to look at your classmates, not exclusively at the professor.

Use your breadth of knowledge — connect the readings to other readings in your class and other out-of-class readings. Feel free to apply the readings or theme of the day to your project, but don’t be so focused on utilitarian knowledge that you fail to engage fully with all of the issues at hand.

Do not fall into the trap of wholesale skewering the reading of the week. This is intellectually lazy. The work must have some redeeming value if the professor has chosen to assign it. Even if you want to make a serious critique of the reading you should attempt to articulate its contributions/interventions as well as limitations.


Turn in all writing assignments on time. Do not save your seminar papers for the last week of class. Begin generating ideas the first week of class. Talk about your ideas with your classmates and your professor. If the professor has not given you a series of deadlines, create deadlines for yourself (i.e., identify paper topic in the third week of class, generate working bibliography in the fourth week of class, create abstract in the fifth week, write your first draft in the sixth week, etc.).

Graduate seminars are your first practice attempts at being a scholar. It should be fun to engage with ideas. Be prepared to spar respectfully — and always be prepared!

by Ralina Joseph, professor, Communication

Forming an Interdisciplinary Dissertation Committee

Doctoral students in interdisciplinary programs face unique challenges in forming dissertation committees. Based on our experience as directors of three such programs (Public Health Genetics, Urban Design and Planning, and Astrobiology), we offer the following suggestions.

Your first challenge

Find the optimal set of members — especially the right chair (or two co-chairs) for your committee. Committee members need to:

  • be the best match for your intellectual interests
  • have the expertise to help you succeed in designing and completing your dissertation
  • be able to help you prepare for your career

In planning for a dissertation, you should consult extensively with faculty members in your program for guidance about:

  • potential research questions
  • planning/timing methodology
  • potential committee members

The role of the committee

The final decision about the appropriate content of your project rests with the dissertation supervisory committee. You should work closely with the committee (especially the chair) to determine your project’s scope and content. The committee will guide your research and should meet regularly with you. Being sure you and your committee agree on what is meant by “regular” meetings is also a good idea. You may find it useful to meet individually with the members and obtain their feedback at several stages of your dissertation process. The interdisciplinary nature of your work may require that feedback at an advanced stage of your dissertation will be provided by the committee in an integrated form. You may want to discuss with your chair how the committee could produce a collective memo integrating their shared feedback.

The composition of dissertation committees

The dissertation supervisory committee must have at least four members, including the chair and the Graduate School representative (GSR). At least three committee members (including the chair and the GSR) must be UW graduate faculty members with an endorsement to chair doctoral committees; a majority of your committee members must be graduate faculty members, identifiable through the Graduate Faculty Locator.

Committee members should include faculty expertise in your dissertation’s core fields. You might consider having five members, especially if your project involves different disciplines requiring advice and guidance in all areas. Four committee members must attend general and final exams — so having five on your committee provides flexibility if one member cannot attend. However, having more than four committee members may make it more difficult for them to find time to work together.

Selecting a Graduate School representative

You must select the Graduate School representative for your committee by consulting with your chair, other committee members, and/or program directors. The GSR votes and represents the interests of the Graduate School. GSR requirements:

  • be a graduate faculty member
  • have an endorsement to chair doctoral committees
  • no conflict of interest with you or your committee chair

Also, the GSR may not have an official faculty appointment within your committee chair’s department(s) or the department in which your program is housed. This can be challenging for students in interdisciplinary programs. Exceptions to this rule can be made, with appropriate justification, by petition to the dean of the Graduate School.

by Professor Emeritus Melissa Austin, Public Health Genetics; Marina Alberti, professor, Urban Design and Planning; and Woody Sullivan, professor, Astrobiology

What You Need to Know about Human Subjects and Animal Subjects for Dissertations

Research involving animals or humans is an essential component of many dissertation research projects. Knowing how to comply with regulations governing human and animal research is critically important to many graduate students. These regulations enhance academic integrity while also protecting research subjects.

The first step: Be advised of compliance mandates

The Graduate School requires submission of a completed “Use of Human and Animal Subjects for UW Graduate Student Theses and Dissertations” form to ensure that students have been advised about the need to comply with UW requirements for research before beginning their dissertation research. These compliance mandates are from the UW Human Subjects Division and Institutional Animal Care Use Committee. The form must be signed by both the dissertation committee chair and the student, and must be kept on file by your program.

Factoring timelines into your planning

In developing timelines for dissertation completion and graduation, be sure to factor in the time necessary to receive approval from the UW Human Subjects Division or the Animal Care Committee, and the need to comply with any other departmental or collaborating institutions’ requirements. Time required for review and approval ranges widely. Allocate enough time for the entire review process, including the possibility of resubmission and reconsideration.

You may NOT proceed with the human subjects or animal care research component of your dissertation until you have a UW approval number. This rule includes approval for exempt, minimal risk, or full review applications. Failure to obtain approval is quite serious, and could jeopardize completion of your dissertation, graduation plans, and any publications derived from the dissertation.

Resources for dealing with human subjects and animal subjects issues

The UW Human Subjects Division website includes many helpful sources of information, including:

  • Introduction to the Human Subjects Review Process, from the UW Human Subjects Division
  • Locations and instructions for completing the human subjects/animal subjects application
  • Helpful links and instructions about specific issues that may arise in your research, including a checklist for preparing a consent form

by Professor Emeritus Melissa Austin, Public Health Genetics; Marina Alberti, professor, Urban Design and Planning; and Woody Sullivan, professor, Astrobiology

Review of Graduate Student Research by the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

What is the IRB?

The IRB is a committee of scientists, non-scientists and community members. At the UW and other universities, the IRB reviews research proposals to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects who participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the University.

When is IRB review required?

If the proposed study meets the federal definition of research…

“A systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.”


If the proposed study involves “human subjects,” defined as “a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains: 1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual; or 2) identifiable private information.”

Why is IRB review necessary?

IRB reviews help ensure the safety and protection of research subjects, as well as the ethical conduct of research that involves human subjects.

The IRB review must determine that all of the following requirements are satisfied.

  • Risks to subjects are minimized.
  • Risks to subjects are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits.
  • Selection of subjects is equitable.
  • Informed consent will be sought from each prospective subject or the subject’s legally authorized representative.
  • Informed consent will be appropriately documented, in accordance with, and to the extent required by HSS regulation 46.117.
  • The research plan makes adequate provision for the monitoring of data collected to ensure the safety of subjects.
  • There are adequate provisions to protect the privacy of subjects and to maintain the confidentiality of data. When some or all of the subjects are likely to be vulnerable to coercion or undue influence, such as children, prisoners, pregnant women, mentally disabled persons or economically disadvantaged persons, additional safeguards have been included in the study to protect the rights and welfare of these subjects.

How does the IRB evaluate research proposals?

The IRB reviews and responds to proposals at three levels, depending on the type of research proposed.

Exempt: Six categories of research involving human subjects qualify for exemption from federal regulations governing the protection of human subjects. A determination of eligibility for exemption must be made by the IRB or its designee. Exempt research must also comply with state laws, UW policy, and conform to sound research ethics/principles.

Expedited (minimal risk): An “expedited” review procedure can be used when research has been determined to be of “minimal risk” to subjects (i.e., “poses no more risk to subjects than would be encountered by the average person in his/her daily activities”) and involves only the procedures listed in the federally described categories of expedited review. All federal, state and local regulations must be taken into consideration. The standard requirements for informed consent (or its waiver or alteration) apply.

Expedited reviews may be carried out by the IRB chair, an IRB co-chair, or by one or more experienced reviewers designated by the chair from among members of the IRB.

Full IRB review: Research that does not qualify as exempt or for expedited review must undergo a full review by a quorum of IRB members. The application process is the same as for expedited review; however, it is recommended that researchers allow two to four months from the time of submission until approval. Researchers should also be aware that the initial full review process frequently does not result in an outright approval of the research; minor or major revisions and written clarifications are often requested.

How can I get help?

The Human Subjects Division (HSD) website is designed to help you decide whether or not you need review and has detailed instructions on how to apply.

If you have questions or need additional assistance, you can contact HSD directly.

This Mentor Memo was developed in collaboration with the Human Subjects Division.

Presenting Your Research at Academic Conferences

Academic conferences allow you to:

  • Start developing your research agenda. Get useful feedback on your research as you convert conference papers into journal articles.
  • Gain visibility with future colleagues, employers, and future collaborators.
  • Start networking and meet people (other graduate students, future colleagues and mentors, researchers you admire).
  • Interview for jobs.

Which conferences?

Most UW departments are well-represented at key national academic conferences.

Many professional associations have divisions that may reflect your department’s areas of expertise. Graduate students also find it useful to present their research at topic-specific conferences. Check with faculty to see which organizations hold conferences where it would be appropriate for your research to be presented.

When and how?

Deadlines for conferences are usually noted on academic organizations’ websites. When considering how to submit your research, be sure to check submission requirements. Some conferences require full papers, while others will consider only abstracts. Be sure to adhere to these details and all deadlines, and be sure to submit your work to a relevant division! (What constitutes “relevant?” Check abstracts and programs from previous years’ conferences.)

At the conference…

Some departments provide funds that allow you to travel to conferences to present your research. In addition to talking about your research in a variety of ways, take advantage of being at the conference to learn about the field, meet other people, and participate.

Presenting your research

You will be judged first and foremost on your research, which means that you should strive for a great presentation. In other words:

  • Know what attendees at this particular conference expect, e.g., reading your paper vs. summarizing your paper? PowerPoint slides?
  • Know your research and what it contributes to the larger body of research.
  • Never, ever, exceed the allotted time! Think of your presentation as a headline service. You cannot cover all points, so select the ones you believe are most important.

How to navigate the conference

Read the conference program; attend the sessions that interest you, but don’t plan every hour.

Be ready with a brief “elevator talk” about your research. Conferences are very busy times, and people will not have time to hear a full explication of all your research projects.

Identify the individuals you would like to meet and ask your mentor/adviser to introduce you.

Introduce yourself to people. Many graduate students feel as if they know no one, so you’re not alone. If you are interested in meeting faculty and “big names,” walk up to them when they appear to have a spare moment, and talk about how you are using their research in your own work. Chances are they will want to learn more about you and your work.

Attend graduate forums and receptions.

Socialize at receptions held by various departments and schools.

Regardless of the sessions you attend and the people you meet, always remain professional. You want to be remembered for your research and professional demeanor, not anything else!

Turning Your Dissertation into a Book

Interested in publishing your dissertation as a book? You will likely need to revise it extensively so it will appeal to a wider audience and compete in the literary marketplace. Here are some guidelines to help you in this process.


  • Allow plenty of time!
  • The review process can easily take up to a year, as it entails a peer review of your manuscript, potential revisions, further peer review and then approval.
  • The editing process can easily take a year to a year and a half as it entails copyediting, design, typesetting and proofreading, preparation of the index, printing and binding.

Dissertations differ from books in several ways

  • Dissertations are highly specialized, while books are geared to general readers.
  • Dissertation audiences are usually fewer than 100 readers — books are about 500 or more, in general.
  • In a dissertation, the author’s authority must be proven; in books, it is assumed.
  • Dissertations contain extensive documentation (to prove authority), while books document to credit sources and help the reader.
  • Dissertations can run long; books are often far shorter.

Elements that make a good book

  • A concise, memorable and intriguing title that includes essential key words
  • Clear and effective organization
  • A succinct introduction
  • Illustrations that enhance the text
  • Sections that are meaningful either alone or as part of the total book
  • Navigational aids, such as chapter titles, running heads, subheads, notes, bibliography, index
  • A voice (relationship of author to reader) that functions like an invisible tour guide or creative storyteller, and avoids sounding like a lecturer at a podium

The revision process


  • Forget your dissertation. Forget your committee.
  • Be bold!
  • Clarify your modified topic and audience.
  • Determine how to present it in a dynamic way.


  • Remove unnecessary references to yourself.
  • Delete conspicuous chapter intros and summaries.
  • Make style parallel in chapter titles, captions, chapter openings and closings, subheads.
  • Revisit the introduction and conclusion.
  • Remove unnecessary notes; condense or combine others.
  • Eliminate most cross-references.
  • Cut unnecessary examples and data.
  • Make chapter openings strong, clear, and inviting.
  • Add definitions of jargon, foreign terms, biographical and historical dates.
  • Brainstorm several possible titles and subtitles.
  • Tighten prose.
  • Use active verbs.
  • Begin and end sentences with words you want to emphasize.


The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. (2003). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

German, William. (2005). From dissertation to book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harmon, Eleanor, et al., ed. (2003). The thesis and the book: A guide for first-time academic authors. 2nd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Lucy, Beth, ed. (2004). Revising your dissertation: Advice from leading editors. Berkeley: University of California Press.

by Lorri Hagman, executive editor, University of Washington Press

Managing Large Writing Projects

Large projects, such as an master of arts degree thesis, dissertation, book, or just a long paper, can be daunting. For some of us, myself included, project management can be a challenge for any article written from scratch. This memo can help you break down your writing project into smaller, less intimidating parts. I will focus on the writing of a thesis or dissertation, but the same basic logic applies to even smaller writing tasks.

Getting started: Clarify purpose, argument, audience

Purpose: A thesis or dissertation should yield a high quality document that adds to the body of scholarly knowledge and is worthy, eventually, of publication in a peer- reviewed journal. Or your writing may address a public controversy or develop a creative insight that could change how people view a phenomenon of interest.

Argument: With your purpose clarified, think about your argument. Create a main argument that carries you through your thesis or dissertation. (There may be many other points along the way, but a core message will help you stay focused from beginning to end).

Audience: Keep a particular audience in mind. For academic work, identify a target journal. Think about who would want to read your work; this will motivate you to write and clarify your message.

Outlining, setting deadlines

One of the causes of vertigo with large writing projects is the sense that the work before you is too big or too much for you to handle given all your existing responsibilities and pressures. So break the project into manageable parts, and make the immediate task a two- or three-page mini-paper.

How to start: Outline your project carefully. Start with a one-page handwritten outline that is simply the main sections or chapter titles.

Then move to a more thorough outline, with detail under each of the points in the first version. At this point, each part of the outline is no more than a few pages.

Refine your outline to indicate how many pages and what kind of work each part will require. For instance, I might have a line in my outline that reads, “Introduce self-perception theory (two pages; brief literature review).” Your daunting, massive thesis or dissertation has now been reduced to a series of manageable, “do-able” tasks.

Set a schedule for completing each piece of the outline. Make sure that each chunk is small enough to be do-able in just a week or two, or even just a day or two.


First-time procrastination problems? You may just be tired, so relax and don’t be hard on yourself.

Persistent procrastination? Break your task into even smaller pieces.

One option: Identify a one-hour block of time. Work on your next writing task for just 15 minutes, followed by a five-minute stretching/social break. Repeat two more times, and in one hour you will have done 45 minutes of work. If that works, then schedule your next writing period for 80 minutes, and so on, until you can set aside three hours at a time for writing. You may find that taking the break after 15 minutes is hard to do because you get a rhythm and can’t stop working. That’s a good thing.

Another option: Schedule writing appointments with fellow students or faculty—or, form a three-to-five person study group that meets every one or two weeks to help keep each other on track.

Other options: See your adviser, commit to a scholarly conference (to create an external deadline), or set up some other writing-related appointment.

If your large writing project becomes so emotionally upsetting that you find yourself unable to do any of the above successfully, consider making an appointment for student counseling. It is easy for the different parts of our lives to get entangled, and the fear or stress you experience regarding your writing may have nothing to do with the quality of your ideas or your skill as a writer—but instead be symptomatic of other things upsetting you at home or at work.

And remember—it’s OK to ask for help.

by John Gastil, former professor, Communication

The Literature Review

From seminar paper to master of arts degree thesis to dissertation, the literature review provides both the foundation and the frame for your own research. Its preparation requires careful planning and a well-crafted presentation.

The purpose of the literature review

A literature review tells us what is known by sharing the results of prior studies related to your own.

A literature review places your study within a larger body of work. It shows how your study seeks to fill a gap in, or extend, our knowledge in this area.

A literature review offers a benchmark for assessing your own results. In the conclusion to your study you will revisit the literature review armed with your new findings.

Organizing the literature review

A good literature review is a synthesis of prior research presented in a way that adds value to our understanding of that work. So, it’s important to organize your review in a way that is coherent, relevant to your own study, and useful to other researchers. For example, you might cluster prior research by media type, communication situation, similar findings, key themes, respondent type, or other useful distinction.

Whatever organizing scheme you choose, it is typical to present the most important, relevant, or strongest collection of existing research first, and go from there. If not, there should be a narrative logic to the review presentation.

Another way to add value is to identify conceptual linkages among ideas and authors. Researchers often talk about the same processes — just in somewhat different ways.

It’s tempting to want to include every study that appeared in the key word search of your topic. Don’t. The challenge is to find the right balance between giving the reader confidence in your familiarity with literature and focusing on what’s most relevant for the study at hand.

Writing the literature review

Your synthesis of prior research should focus on key findings or conclusions with just enough information for the reader to discern the question and approach: “In her ethnographic study of Muslim immigrants’ perception of mainstream British media, Gillespie concluded…” The exception being if the study cited is significant because of its methodology — only then would you offer more methodological detail.

Not all ideas in the literature review are used to construct your study’s conceptual framework. So, at the end of each section, tell readers what key concept, finding, definition, or theme is most critical to “carry forward” into their reading of your study.

Don’t over-quote. It slows down your narrative. Direct quotations should only appear if the author said something in a unique, powerful, or precise way (e.g., a definition) that demands repeating in its exact form. Otherwise, use your own words.

Since a good review is a coherent, value-added organization of the literature, provide the reader with clear “signposts” through the instructive use of headings, introductions, transition phrases, and summary statements.

Finally, because people reading your paper or dissertation may not be familiar with your area of research, be careful not to weigh down your literature review in field-specific jargon. It is important that you write in clear and active prose.

by Nancy Rivenburgh, professor, Communication

Collaborating and Co-Authoring

Finding opportunities to collaborate and publish

Many scholars enjoy co-authoring because doing so affords an opportunity to develop new ideas, extend our methodological toolkit, and share the workload. The first step in finding opportunities to co-publish is to let your faculty mentors know that you are available to help if they ever get such invitations. Faculty sometimes receive unsolicited invitations to write an article or contribute a book chapter. Since faculty often plan long-term writing agendas, they may decline an unexpected invitation. They may be more likely to accept such an invitation if they know they can share the research and writing tasks with a co-author.

If you hear of such an opportunity, or see a call for papers that you would like to answer, you may also pitch a co-authorship opportunity to other students or faculty. Whether or not they accept your invitation will depend on how thoroughly you’ve considered the workload, authorship credits, and of course, the intellectual fit.

Many forms of collaborations

Collaborative work with faculty can take many forms: payment in the form of a stipend without additional acknowledgement; a thank-you in the acknowledgments of a book or an article; a footnote in the relevant section of the published work; gradations of co-authorship; or independent access to the data or field notes.

Across the humanities and social sciences, an author is someone who makes a substantive creative contribution to a project. A research assistant makes a minor creative contribution or a mechanical contribution such as collecting data or organizing archives.

For the most part, being paid as a research assistant does not eliminate the obligation to acknowledge the contribution of a minor or mechanical contribution. The benefit of collaborating is that all parties acquire new experience and skills, and have the creative opportunity to generate and test new ideas.

Discussing the workload

There are several good tools that facilitate co-authorship, such as Endnote, Word’s “track changes” tool, and of course, e-mail. Your discussion of workload should not only include the details of which parts of an article you will author, but the process for editing drafts, for backing up drafts and data, for keeping notes on major edits, and for resolving intellectual differences. But co-authoring doesn’t stop there—you should also talk through the likely division of labor for submitting to journals, corresponding with editors, handling revisions and resubmissions, and reviewing page proofs.

Even though many of these tasks seem far in the future and hypothetical — contingent on acceptance — they are a significant part of the work of publishing and it is best to talk through the hypothetical scenarios. The more you clarify the workload and timeline before the writing starts, the more likely you are to have a successful collaboration. Moreover, writing may not even be the most difficult task for authors: conceptualizing the problem, designing the research project, and collecting data are major tasks that need to be made even before writing begins.

Negotiating authorship credit

We are in an unusual profession in that faculty actively work to make students into colleagues. So many project leaders will err on the side of generosity in negotiating an authorship credit, and there are several possible permutations:

  • Listing authors in alphabetical order, which in the social sciences and humanities can indicate equal contributions (if specified in the footnotes);
  • Listing authors in the order of substantive contributions made;
  • Randomizing the order of authors across multiple papers based on the same project;
  • In increasingly rare cases, subdividing authorship, which takes the form of “A with B” or “A and B.”

Journals may also have their own guidelines for how to acknowledge each other’s contribution in a footnote, endnote, or other front matter.

It is best to establish early on—as part of the workload conversation—what the duties and obligations for these credits will be for your particular piece. However, the initially agreed-upon authorship order can change based on the actual contributions realized at the end of the paper.

Personal negotiations

It is best to have face-to-face conversations about the terms of this important relationship, so avoid using e-mail. Unlike writing a paper for a class, collaborating and co-authoring is a long-term personal commitment to being available and amenable to an extended process. This longer-term working relationship means meeting deadlines (and being flexible with them), deferring to your collaborators in the areas in which they have more expertise, and picking up responsibilities when necessary. Ultimately, it can mean celebrating and sharing the reward of successfully publishing and contributing to the advancement of knowledge.

by Philip N. Howard, professor, Communication