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My question can be elaborated as follows: When graduate students work together on a research project, are they usually expected to work on the same exact things, at the same exact time, or would it be more reasonable to have a division of labor and divide the work load?

  • It's hard to see how the collaboration arrangement won't be different with every collaboration. – Ben Norris Feb 6 '14 at 11:37
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It's really like any other collaboration. Presumably the (student) researchers are working together because they have a common interest in a problem and possibly have some complementary expertise that's useful for solving the problem. So they'll interact and as the situation merits it will divide up tasks (or work on some aspects together). There really isn't a single rule for this.

  • I can give you a rule: We should avoid people working on same exact things when the product is knowledge/information. It's very inefficient, because making duplicates is extremely easy and cheap once the product is finished. – Trylks Feb 6 '14 at 9:17
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    @Trylks: It's not (necessarily) inefficient if they work on the exact same things together. – Tara B Feb 6 '14 at 10:50
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    @Trylks your statement doesn't make sense in my domain, for example, where two students might be collaborating on proving a theorem. They don't necessarily have complementary expertise and are in fact working on the exact same thing: sometimes it's just the give-and-take of an interaction that leads to a new result. – Suresh Feb 6 '14 at 16:15
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    @Trylks: If two people work on, say, proving a mathematical theorem together, by talking to each other and bouncing ideas around, it really can often go a lot quicker than either of them working on it alone, and I would find it a bit odd to say they are not working on the exact same thing. – Tara B Feb 6 '14 at 22:01
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    @Suresh: Probably a wise decision. =] – Tara B Feb 7 '14 at 17:09

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