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Centennial Dukes Establish Undergraduate Research Journal

By Kimberly Russo ('08), JMU Public Affairs

Casey Boutwell and Laurence Lewis

Casey Boutwell (left) and Laurence Lewis decided to start James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal to provide a forum for undergraduate research.

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Laurence Lewis knows the feeling of writing a research paper for very few eyes.

For all the time and effort undergraduates spend on such endeavors, Lewis figured they should have an opportunity to show their work to a larger audience. "Why not showcase the product of all this focus and development? Undergraduates deserve to have their work seen by the entire community," Lewis said.

With the help of fellow 2008 alumnus Casey Boutwell, Lewis founded the James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal, which will publish its first edition this spring.

The inaugural issue will be posted on the Web in the first week of April, said co-managing editor Alex Sharp, a junior SMAD journalism major. A limited number of hard copies will be printed.

While graphic designers, Matt Powers and Caroline Blanzaco work on the Web site—JMURJ.com—JMURJ review editors are collaborating with the writers of 30 research submissions for the first issue. Researchers work with staff review editors to polish their work for publication. Papers are reviewed by peer researchers and checked for content by faculty.

Lewis came up with the idea for the journal while researching last summer at Northwestern University. "I instantly knew that this idea (an undergraduate journal) would reside perfectly at James Madison University," he said. "I'd been talking to people, and they said MIT and Stanford can do this because they're MIT and Stanford-and we're just JMU. I really wanted to dispose of that mentality."

Alex Sharp and Sierra Stanczyk

Alex Sharp and Sierra Stanczyk are leading the editing team of the first James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal.

With some guidance from Kurt Schick, associate professor of writing, rhetoric and technical communication, and diligent work from managing editors, Sharp and Sierra Stanczyk ('09), the behind-the-scenes work at JMURJ has been in full swing for some time.

Schick said he was happy to serve as an adviser. "This idea contributes to the civic mission that is at the heart of JMU-to create educated and enlightened citizens," he said.

The journal will provide student researchers with more than just an audience. It also will impart valuable experience in the publication process that can be applied in their professional lives after graduation. JMURJ review editors will help students showcase their research efforts by writing to a broader collegiate audience.  "It is very important to guide the author on how to explain what they do to the lay person," said Stanczyk, noting it is easy to get caught up in technical jargon within a particular field of study. Through the peer-review process, authors are also exposed to research in various disciplines across campus.

With Interstate 81 dividing the arts and the sciences, students can find themselves in a bubble of their own discipline. The journal will serve as a uniting factor across campus, between students of all majors, between faculty and students and even administration. The journal is open to publishing research from all disciplines and the creators hope there will be a wide variety of subject matter.

"It's like being on the front of the rollercoaster," Sharp said about the excitement of starting JMURJ. He believes the journal will gain wide acceptance. "I see the journal getting bigger and better every year," he said.

More information about the journal is available on its Web site:  www.JMURJ.com