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 group reports produced as scholarly works within academia.

(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.)

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    I suspect you will get more useful answers to this question on the Academic SE than here. This is not really a writing question, but a question about academic protocol for crediting contributors. – user16226 May 27 '17 at 3:47
  • Since the time I was 6, a Group report got a Group grade. Not only does it make it easier on you, but it improves collaboration, which seems the point of your multidisciplinary team assignment. In many, many years of academia, I've never seen a byline approach to a given section with the exception of a notorious guest commentator – Stu W May 28 '17 at 18:44
  • Good idea, @Mark. – Jim Fischer May 28 '17 at 20:54
  • This question has been reposted on Academia: academia.stackexchange.com/q/90134 so I'm closing it here. (It's borderline on-topic here since it involves presenting citations, but since it's a duplicate, may as well have one copy where it'll get better answers.) – Monica Cellio Jun 1 '17 at 18:08