Undergraduate Journals

In January,  I presented at 7th annual 4Cast (Campus Academic Strategies and Technology) Conference: The Book is Dead. Long Live the Book on “Undergraduate Journals”. I should have posted what I said, but have forgotten until now. I was introducing the idea to people to promote the idea. This is a bit more like notes than real writing. Also, instead of including all the screen shots as images, I am including links.

Undergraduate Journals

I am here to speak not about books or print; I apologize for being off theme for this year.

Iowa Research Online and the Libraries Publishing services

Library publishing services http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/drp/publishing
Iowa Research Online http://ir.uiowa.edu/

Iowa Research Online is a service of the Libraries to host and preserve scholarly output of the University of Iowa. The Libraries will also work with faculty on other open access publishing needs.

The Libraries can help you publish a journal.

First some general information about the journal publishing services at the Libraries

Existing titles can migrate to Iowa Research Online and new titles can be started.

Each title hosted in our software receives a distinctive design.

Examples: http://ir.uiowa.edu/poroi/ and http://ir.uiowa.edu/mathal/

Editors retain all editorial control over the content.

Editors may opt to use the review features to manage the submission and peer review process. We will train editors to use the software.

http://ir.uiowa.edu/mff/about.html and http://ir.uiowa.edu/ijcs/editorialboard.html

We make sure articles clearly indicate copyright status, including a creative common license if desired.

http://ir.uiowa.edu/pog/vol3/iss1/2/ and http://ir.uiowa.edu/dadasur/vol19/iss1/4/

The Libraries will digitize back content for which there is permission to post online.

I should note that all our titles are open access, with the possibility of a moving wall for current issues. Subscription lists and payments are not handled by the library. Titles can be published in print as well as online. The Libraries is not involved in print production.


Electronic only titles are not bound by traditional article and book lengths, which derive from cost-effective use of paper and the realities of binding. We can support content of any length, from very short, to a more novella length between article and book to an extremely long treatise on a technical subject. Color illustrations do not cost additional in an electronic publication. Journals can also have multimedia components or supplemental data. We encourage all our publications to take advantage of such features.

http://ir.uiowa.edu/poroi/vol2/iss1/7/ and http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1269&context=dadasur

Why in IRO vs just on your website?

  • The titles in Iowa Research Online are well indexed by Google and are included in Google Scholar.
  • We will make sure the journal meets standards, including quality metadata, and is integrated into standard library indexes and tools. We can also easily share metadata with indexing companies.
  • The Libraries can help with formatting articles to ensure they look professional and meet accessibility standards. At this time, we do not format articles for journal, but we may offer this in the future.
  • The titles are archived by the Libraries and will be preserved for the long-term.
  • We will make sure the URLs remain stable.
  • Authors and editors receive usage statistics showing downloads of content.

It won’t cost you anything.

We don’t charge you to host the journal. We consider this part of our mission to “Foster critical inquiry and enable the creation of knowledge” and our goal to “Expand and support faculty research through collaboration on … electronic publishing.”

However, you may choose to pay someone to do the journal layout or manage printing or subscriptions.

The Libraries will support publishing a broad range of content

The Libraries want to work with new forms of publishing, such as non-journal or linear book web publishing. We would also be happy to work with you on conference proceedings and technical report series.

How to start?

Contact your subject specialist or Digital Research & Publishing for more information. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/drp/publishing/#journal

The Libraries can help you publish an undergraduate journal.

Now I will try to convince you about the merits of undergraduate journals, the actual topic of this session. Undergraduate journals have been created at quite a few other institutions as a way to showcase student work.

Undergraduate journals require faculty support.

Faculty support is critical to ensure the journal will last beyond the current crop of enthusiastic student editors and to ensure quality of the content. For a non-discipline specific journal, faculty from diverse departments will ensure the widest number of people are aware of the journal. Additionally, we do not post any student content in IRO without faculty support.

Benefits to the student …

A journal provides a good places to showcase their work before entering graduate school or the job market.

Beyond this, publishing in journals teaches students about participation in scholarly discourse. Creating the journal forms new ways to teach the authors about proper citation practices and copyright. These issues take on new dimensions when considering how others will use your work and when thinking about having your work posted publicly.

Student editors can be trained to do the work of editing and formatting the articles, giving students outlets for skills they have and means to acquire additional skills. The journal can offer experiential learning for students in journalism and graphic design.

Charles Watkinson, Director of Purdue University Press, said the act of articulating … the work that they have done .. is … a valuable way of clarifying understanding.

“We found that students who would otherwise hide behind the jargon of their discipline, are really forced to explain and clarify their ideas when asked to write for a different audience.”

ASERL Webinar: Library Publishing #2 — Focus on Undergraduate Research Journals http://vimeo.com/71461004 (about 10:50-11:30)

Another benefit he listed is

“Just the act of writing about a complex subject improves their research and writing skills.”

ASERL Webinar: Library Publishing #2 — Focus on Undergraduate Research Journals http://vimeo.com/71461004(about 11:40)

Undergraduate research journals form part of two of the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ high-impact educational practices:

  • Writing intensive courses
  • Undergraduate research


We have the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, so are very familiar with the benefits of undergraduate research. We also offer writing intensive courses. However, an undergraduate journal provides a means to pair up these two practices up to provide additional benefits for the students.

Stephanie Davis-Kahl, a librarian at Illinois Wesleyan, said:

In other words, publishing can be situated quite well and effectively in the space between the scholarly and the practical. On our campus, more and more we are hearing students want experiences to show that they can apply what they’ve learned, and that they can make an impact beyond the walls of their campus. (It should be noted that we’re hearing a similar message from potential future employers.) Involving students either in highly experiential ways, such as in an undergraduate research journal, or in a less intense but equally meaningful way by involving them in specific elements of publishing (like engaging in peer review process, or working on the marketing of a journal) is a great way to build key skills for the future.

The Value of Library Publishing & Undergraduate Education, http://works.bepress.com/stephanie_davis_kahl/39/, slide 7

Benefits to the department and institution …

The journal can be a good recruiting tool to persuade the best students to apply to the University of Iowa. The journal can promote undergraduate research to sophomores who might be interested in pursuing research. A journal can also demonstrate the advantages a research institution has over purely teaching institution in that it provides opportunities for undergraduate research.

Joe O’Shea from Florida State said:

“It can help to showcase the intellectual caliber of our students. It can help set expectations for our incoming students. It can provide a vehicle for donors, or for fund-raising. [I do bring this to fundraising meeting. Actually we bring it to the University Board of Trustees.]”

ASERL Webinar: Library Publishing #2 — Focus on Undergraduate Research Journals http://vimeo.com/71461004 (43:46-44:01)

Why not in a “real” journal?

An argument we have heard against undergraduate journals is “Why should they publish in a 2nd rate journal and not in a disciplinary journal?” The answer is in part the pedagogical benefits they receive from active participation in the journal. Undergraduate journals also tend to be written for more general audience, describing the context of a problem. Charles Watkinson encourages the authors to write for a fellow student in a different discipline. Also, if the work is published in a disciplinary journal, the student is probably one of many authors, but in this case they are the only author. If the work really could be published in a disciplinary journal, by all means encourage that. However, an undergraduate journal really fulfills a different role and is more connected with teaching and learning than with communication unique scholarly research and so provides a publication outlet for content that would not be published in another journal.

The challenges are real but the journals are worth the effort

I won’t kid you – there are very real challenges – but I believe the journals are worth the effort for the benefits for the students (and the institution). The journals do take time, from faculty, the students, and from the library. Sustainability can be difficult as the student editors regularly graduate. Other institutions have found that using software like the Libraries is offering to you helps because training is simpler. Having seniors mentor junior editors and paying students as copy editors also helps.

Additional challenges include: Who assists students with revision process? What level of editing and design should the journal have? What citation style should be used? Who is responsible for permissions clearance, especially for images. If it will be published in print, where will the money come from and how will it be distributed?

Assessment is of course important. Purdue staff believes the standard metrics of citation & downloads are not as important as gains on student learning and admission goals. In fact, their funding from the Provost is dependent on demonstrating how the journal contributes to student success. They use a survey tool for students before and after article is published or their time as editor has ended.


I will quickly show you a few examples from other institutions

Purdue has an institution specific journal (Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research), published in print and online, with articles across all disciplines. They invite proposals in the form a 250 word abstract. If the proposal is chosen, then the student writes either a full article (3500-4,000 words) or a research snapshot, which is essentially an extended abstract. http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jpur/

Purdue also has a public policy title (Student Papers in Public Policy). Dartmouth publishes public policy work by students, although these are not in a journal as such. If there was interest in doing something like this at Iowa, the Libraries could definitely host such a series in Iowa Research Online.

See http://chronicle.com/article/Undergraduate-Research-Gets/140067/ and http://rockefeller.dartmouth.edu/shop/ and http://rockefeller.dartmouth.edu/shop/index.html#fy13briefs

Florida State University also has an institution wide journal published in print and online, called The Owl. They have started publishing a fall issue that is online only and is focused on work from a specific department or class.

Many of our peer institutions have general undergraduate research journals. Some, like the local Iowa Historical Review, have discipline specific titles. (This journal will become part of IRO quite soon.)

Additional examples:

As with any journal, make sure there is a need for it — many undergraduate journals accept content from any institution so before starting a disciplinary journal, make sure one doesn’t already exist. Library staff can help look for related journals.

Powerpoint – UndergraduateJournals4cast2014


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