I teach a senior design course for undergraduate engineering students at a public university. Our senior design projects are all team based, usually with three to five engineering students per team. The teams are all multidisciplinary--e.g., electrical engineers, computer engineers, mechanical engineers, etc. all working collaboratively on a given project.
At present each student team coauthors a GROUP report that documents their project-level information--e.g., project history, problem statement, project concept, engineering merit and innovation, project goals and objectives, project requirements, risk management, constraints, budget, timeline, project evaluation, etc. Each student also individually authors an INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS report which details that student's contributions to their group's senior design project.
Because these reports are scholarly works performed within academia, I need to devise a method of identifying which student(s) authored which sections(s) within the GROUP report for feedback and course grading purposes. Right now I'm considering requiring the use of bylines throughout the report so that I can unambiguously determine which student(s) authored which section(s) within the report. This copious use of bylines might appear unappealing in the finished product, and it's a practice that's not commonly used in industry, but it does solve my necessity of ascribing authorship to specific students.
If multiple students coauthor a given section of the GROUP report, I will require that there be a principal author and one or more contributing coauthors. The principle author's name shall be listed first on the byline, followed by the coauthors' names. For course grading purposes, the principal author shall be fully responsible for all written content provided under their byline.
I would, of course, provide rules that define the criteria for qualification as a coauthor (for example, see section "2. Who Is an Author?" on the web page titled "Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors" on the Internal Committee of Medical Journal Editors website).
I might also allow an additional and separate contributors byline to identify students who do not qualify as an author, but who contributed in some way to the writing in a given section of the report. I'm thinking of placing the contributors' byline on a new line immediately under the authors' byline:
By: Jane Smith, Frank Cedars
Contributions by: Huan Sung
I'm wondering if anyone has comments regarding this proposed use of bylines, or perhaps has other suggestions for identifying authorship within undergraduate group reports produced as scholarly works within academia.
(n.b. Assigning a single group grade is ill-advised for a number of reasons. Different students have different levels of writing competence--e.g., foreign nationals for whom English is a second language. In an undergraduate course, skilled authors should not be held responsible for, nor unfairly burdened with the task of, editing / correcting other students' writing in order to ensure the entire group receives a decent grade. Indeed, if the skilled authors do all the work there is neither accountability nor incentive for lesser-skilled writers to work at improving their writing skills. For what it's worth, these students receive feedback on their writing via peer review, rubrics, project advisors, and course graders. The project advisors and course graders are the ones who need to know which student wrote which sections of the GROUP report for feedback and assessment purposes.)
(n.b. I've already considered and rejected the idea of a two document solution where one document is the GROUP report itself, and the second document is a "key" that identifies which sections within the GROUP report were authored by which students. This "key" document adds extra work, its upkeep is clumsy and unreliable, it's another piece of paper that must be tracked, it slows down the grading and feedback process, etc.)