How to Set Up a Journal
One of the best ways to galvanise your undergraduate research culture is to set up your own journal. BCUR hosts several undergraduate journals on its website and here you can also find links to many undergraduate journals around the world. Undergraduate Research journals have a good pedigree. Oxford University Press’s Bioscience Horizons is a widely cited undergraduate journal and the Harvard Law Review is one of the most long-standing undergraduate journals in the world. One of its former editors was President Barack Obama. Setting up journals used to be expensive because of the print costs involved, but these days most academic journals are online or online first.
What is an undergraduate journal?
An undergraduate research journal is an academic journal, containing undergraduate research that has usually been peer reviewed, or undertaken a recommendation process. It can be from any discipline or it can be multidisciplinary and is usually aimed at an undergraduate audience.
Why publish undergraduate research?
The publication of undergraduate journals online has contributed enormously to the awareness and practical application of research at undergraduate level, and to the dissemination of ideas and achievements across a global network. Knowledge sharing is crucial in the advancement of learning. Undergraduate journals serve as a forum for sharing undergraduate research and reading the work of others within the peer group helps to nurture critical and reflective skills. They also establish a further goal to reach for – to produce work worthy of publication.
Developing undergraduate research for publication
There are lots of different models for undergraduate journals and with more journals appearing online, there are more opportunities than ever to create innovative new ways of disseminating research. However, most journals stick closely to accepted conventions in the sector.
To set up a new journal, the first step is to establish an editorial board. If it is within the institution, you will want to involve colleagues who share your vision and have experience of working with and editing journals. Once you have a team together, you can begin the process of deciding the scope of the journal and agreeing its refereeing procedures.
Journals provide the sector with a way of evaluating the quality of research. This is important for undergraduate journals too and one of the first questions your Board will have to address is how quality is defined and measured. Peer review is recognized internationally as the gold standard for measuring research quality, but who will act as peer reviewers for your undergraduate journal? How involved will undergraduate students be in your journal and is there a role for postgraduates to act as reviewers and editors?
It is likely that many of your submissions will arise from coursework so you will need to be sensitive to that context. At the same time, writing for publication is different to writing for coursework so as part of the review process, think of ways in which you can encourage students to develop their work.
At the University of Central Lancashire, Diffusion: the UCLan Journal of Undergraduate Research has an editorial team that includes staff and students. Rather than take unsolicited submissions from students, Diffusion requires lecturers to recommend papers and as part of that process, they also write a short statement on what further work needs to be done. Involving the lecturer in the process at the outset helps the journal to ensure that the work is of good quality. A second review is then sought from peer reviewers, who can be either staff or students.
By contrast, the University of Warwick’s Reinvention journal accepts submissions from any student and puts each one through a peer review process that sets a very high bar.
Once you have established a clear peer review process, the next step is to make decisions about the overall aims of the journal and its disciplinary reach. Answering these questions will also help you decide how frequently the journal will be published.
The final step is to issue a Call for Papers, building in enough time for papers to be reviewed and edited for final publication. When preparing your Call for Papers, it is a good idea to include a style guide. Universities often use a variety of styles particularly for citations – one of the challenges of pulling together work from different academic departments is that these styles will need to be changed into your own house style.
Publishing the journal
If you can find the resource to print the journal, even for a limited run, do so as print journals more quickly establish themselves in a university environment. However, most journals are now electronic. Internet-based journals are cheaper and have a greater reach. They also comply with Open Access policies. There are many ways to put a journal online but a common system is Open Journal Systems (OJS). It is possible that your university library already has access to this. If it does not, then the OJS code is free. BCUR Journals are run on an OJS platform and we also host journals so if you want to set one up and you have nowhere to host it, please get in touch with us.