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I'm currently enrolled in a course (Masters-level) where we are supposed to write a paper together with another fellow student. The paper will not be published publicly.

It has been difficult since the start to communicate with my partner. He often won't answer mails for over a week and then ignoring my suggestions and questions while forcing his own ideas on me without consulting with me. The course also requires mutual peer-review of our work, which I have done, but I received nothing from him.

He didn't acknowledge any of my comments in the document except spelling errors and didn't share his progress before turning in the paper for the first milestone. It turns out that there are still multiple formatting and style issues that I informed him about, and he broke some of my cross references. This is absolutely below my standards for submissions and I'm afraid it will reflect negatively on me.

How should I react to this? Should I involve the professor? I already made it clear to him that I prefer a more cooperative working style instead of waiting for his drops of content. The only thing I care about this point is a good grade and a good standing with the professor, since I consider my thesis in his department.

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The first thing I would do is to try contacting your partner again. You've said you already told him that you prefer a more cooperative style, but perhaps you should can be clearer about this. For example, if you say "I think you aren't communicating well, I need you to cooperate more", this is ambiguous and could possibly be interpreted as an attack on his working style. Instead, you can try to give more concrete suggestions. For example, setting up weekly meeting times for both of you to sit down together and talk about the paper and what you need to do next. You could also suggest setting up a google docs or dropbox etc. where both of you have access, so that you can both edit the document and see the changes the other has made.

If this still doesn't work, I would consider the cost/benefit of the next steps. You can escalate by going to the professor, but this isn't necessarily in your best interest, even if you don't like working with your partner. You say that there are formatting/style issues, and broken references, but to me these sound like minor issues that can be fixed pretty easily. It also sounds like your partner is doing a lot of work on the paper, which is good because sometimes you might get a partner who does nothing or does everything at the very last minute.

If you do decide to go to professor, you should understand that if you can't fix the group, the professor isn't going to be able to either. Maybe if your partner is ghosting you the professor can force the two of you to sit in the same room together, but beyond that they can't do a whole lot. Your professor is also not going to grade you easier because you complain about the group to them. Really the only thing the professor can do is possibly give you the option of working by yourself for the rest of the project (but they won't necessarily allow this). But of course, then you'll be out of a partner altogether.

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  • Good suggestions overall, but I would nix the idea of using DropBox. DropBox is not great for showing, merging, or tracking versions of files. It's better they use Google Docs (which does track editorial changes) or some kind of version control system. It's not that I have anything against using DropBox, DropBox is awesome in many ways, but if you do not trust your working partner, DropBox is just not well-suited for that task. – Stephan Branczyk May 9 at 6:11
  • We already use Dropbox, and a Word document. However he enabled password-protected tracking (without telling me) on the document and never accepted my changes until the very last day, so I never could properly format and layout my part. He is doing work on the paper, but never consults with me and essentially forces his workflow and ideas on me while ignoring suggestions from me completely. I think I go with your suggestion and clearly telling him my issues with this, but I assume he'll just ignore me. – Anonymous May 9 at 8:16

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