Students re-establish undergraduate research journal
Students majoring in subjects from biology to business and everything in between now have an opportunity for their hard work to be recognized by their peers with the revival of the James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal.
The journal will be published this spring for the first time since 2008, when JMU alumni Casey Boutwell and Laurence Lewis wanted a way to share student research with a larger audience than just their professors. "Why not showcase the product of all this focus and development? Undergraduates deserve to have their work seen by the entire community," Lewis said at the time.
However, after publishing the journal in 2008, the students who shepherded it graduated and the journal left along with them.
The revival of the undergraduate research journal began in spring 2013 with the creation of a "Developing an Undergraduate Research Journal" class. However now it has changed its focus to publishing an undergraduate research journal and fulfills an honors seminar.
The online journal will enable students from across campus to see what students from other majors are working on. "We want people in the hard sciences to see what's happening, for example, in the art department," said junior psychology major Zach Buchin, a member of the journal's editorial board.
In designing the journal, the editorial board looked at undergraduate journals at other universities for inspiration and used the previous version as a starting point. The publishing team hopes a new edition of the journal will be published each semester. Each journal will feature seven to 10 scholarly works, based in part on the number of submissions.
Once a paper or a multimedia presentation is submitted it is assigned an ID number, stripped of all information identifying its authors or creators and sent to a review board consisting of faculty members with expertise in each of the university's various disciplines. One of the most important aspects throughout the review process is to keep the identity of the researchers undisclosed so as not to create bias in the acceptance of papers, Buchin said.
The reviewers then consider three main criteria for evaluation: Is it a strong example of scholarly work; is the research accurate and complete; and is the writing clear, organized and readable? "We'll publish anything if it's good," Buchin said.
While undergraduates may be required to conduct research for their classes, many students never get the opportunity to have their work published for the whole community. "It's a great way to get yourself known around JMU," said Buchin. "When we ask for submissions, we say it will look good when job hunting because being published as an undergrad is huge and we just want to help our students do that."
The spring issue of the journal has received more than 50 submissions and the editorial board hopes to continue receiving submissions from as many different areas of study as possible.
This time around the journal is backed by the honors program so when Buchin and his fellow student publishers graduate the journal will remain and continue to grow each semester.
For more information on how to submit research go to http://www.jmu.edu/jmurj/
By Melissa Mowery ('14), JMU Public Affairs