We’ve all done it. You know, you’re working on a writing project and you have every intention of staying organized. But then, all of a sudden, you have a folder with 43 documents in it—all named “helpful” things like draft2.docx, draft-revised.docx, draft-jsg-feedback.docx, draft-jsg-jlm.docx, manuscript-final.docx, manuscript-final-FINAL.docx. In this blog post, we’ll go over tips for tracking revisions and keeping your writing process organized!

Name your files wisely

File management is a boring, yet supremely practical, part of any project. A consistent naming convention will go a long way towards saving time and energy later. We recommend naming files in this format as you work on a project, keeping in mind that publishers may ask you to use a different file naming convention when you submit:

year-month-day brief-title status-of-project.docx

For example:

2022-03-10 Key-Practices manuscript-for-review.docx

2020-11-15 What-Teaching-Looks-Like cel-proposal.docx

2021-04-06 Pedagogical-Partnerships figure-1.xlsx

The date at the beginning will allow you to sort by file name and see a chronological progression of your project.

Collaborate intentionally

File management becomes even trickier when you have multiple contributors, which is very common in research on engaged learning and teaching. Some ideas for smart collaboration:

  • When starting the project, consider using a platform like Google Drive or Microsoft Word online, which allows people to synchronously share and edit documents. Use the commenting feature to leave notes for each other, then resolve or delete notes as they are no longer needed.
  • If you aren’t using a word processing program that allows for synchronous work, consider using an online file hosting service that everyone on the team can access, and establish team practices for checking files in/out (e.g., establishing a schedule for who will work on the file when, double-checking that you’re accessing the most current version of the file).
  • If using Google Drive or a Microsoft document stored in OneDrive, you can use their revision history tool to keep up with versions. Instead of saving different versions of the document as separate files, you can look back to previous versions within the same file. Instructions are provided for this feature in Google and Microsoft.
  • As you are editing each other’s contributions, remember to turn on Track Changes in Word or use the “suggesting” feature in Google. These features will help streamline feedback and allow authors to easily incorporate your suggestions or edit the text in an alternate way.
  • Nominate a member of the team to take the lead on keeping track of files, formatting according to the publisher’s guidelines, and communicating with the publisher. Our open access book Writing about Learning and Teaching in Higher Education includes a helpful checklist for submitting your manuscript.

Incorporate feedback from critical friends

Asking for feedback from critical friends is an essential step in refining your work and getting it ready for publication. Hopefully you feel part of a community of scholars, in which you provide feedback for others and get feedback in return. Healey, Matthews, and Cook-Sather offer excellent advice on finding critical friends and soliciting constructive feedback in chapter 26 of Writing about Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Be clear with your reviewers about what type of feedback you’d like and make sure to use the software tips above to streamline the process for everyone.

Clean out your files

Once a project has been published, take the time to delete any files that you no longer need (there may be a lot of them!). You may want to keep: the proposal, each draft you shared with your publisher, data and figures, the copy edited manuscript, page proofs, and the final PDF.

A little time and planning can help keep you organized as you move through your writing project. This post is just one of many in our series on Publishing SoTL – check them out!


Healey, Mick, Kelly E. Matthews, and Alison Cook-Sather. 2020. Writing about Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Creating and Contributing to Scholarly Conversations across a Range of Genres. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning. https://doi.org/10.36284/celelon.oa3.

Jennie Goforth is the Center for Engaged Learning’s Managing Editor. She works with authors to shepherd their work from proposal through production in the Center’s Open Access Book Series. She also manages production of book websites and supplemental materials for the Stylus Publishing/Center for Engaged Learning Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching.

How to cite this post

Goforth, Jennie. 2022. “Academic Book Publishing: Tracking Revisions of Your Writing Project.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. March 22, 2022. http://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/academic-publishing-tracking-revisions-of-your-writing-project.