The UCCS Undergraduate Research Journal (URJ) is dedicated to publishing student work and may be a worthwhile endeavor for students who have not found as many opportunities to further their academic writing this semester.
Despite facing the same challenges as many other organizations, classes and scholars have experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the journal remains accessible and is looking for submissions — as well as volunteers — this semester.
The URJ is published through Kraemer Family Library (KFL) and was founded in 2008 by Tabatha Farney, director and associate professor of web services and emerging technologies. Susan Vandagriff, scholarly communications librarian and assistant professor of instructional and research services, is also involved with the journal and provided some insight into its production.
According to Vandagriff, Farney started the journal “as a way to showcase high quality undergraduate research at the university and to engage students in scholarly communications.”
Not only are students involved in the communication process through their writing, they are also able to contribute to the editorial side of the publication.
“When students submit a paper to the URJ, first Kirsten Reichardt, our current student editor, checks it to make sure the paper fits within the journal’s scope,” Vandagriff said via email. “Then the paper is anonymized and sent to student peer reviewers who decide whether or not the paper should be published and provide feedback about any changes or edits the paper needs.”
The journal’s scope includes research from various disciplines and formats such as informal proposals, undergraduate theses and research papers, according to the URJ’s website. Vandagriff defined the journal’s focus as being geared toward undergraduate work that requires the student to draw on outside sources or experiments and studies to support an argument.
The double-blind peer review process allows student readers to make unbiased selections and maintain a high standard for purposeful and polished work. Once the peer reviewers have determined a paper should move forward to be published in the journal, they send their feedback to the student editor.
“Kirsten relays those edits to the author, the author makes any last changes, the papers are copyedited and proofread, and finally they are published on the journal website,” Vandagriff explained.
The URJ is open access and entirely online, meaning that other academics worldwide can read and reference work by UCCS undergraduates.
Students should email email@example.com to submit work and should include a 3-5 sentence abstract describing their work. The URJ also recommends having a faculty member review work before submitting. Faculty and undergraduate research collaborations are also encouraged.
“The journal offers students the chance to publish research that is important to them and to participate in scholarship that is often reserved for graduate students and professionals,” Vandagriff said. “It’s a great opportunity to share your work and to experience the process of publishing in a peer reviewed journal as an undergraduate.”
If a student wishes to publish multiple papers, the URJ requests they limit it to one submission per semester, including the Summer semester, for a maximum of three per year.
Recent submission review has been slightly delayed as a result of COVID-19. “Due to the pandemic, we’ve had a harder time getting peer reviewers this year and that’s slowed us down,” Vandagriff said. “All of our peer review is done by volunteers and in the past, we’ve been able to offer workshops and snacks to attract reviewers, but 2020 has been really different.”
Despite the shortage of help this year, she added that the URJ team does still hope to publish an issue before the end of the fall semester.
To volunteer for the URJ, students can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vandagriff, together with Farney, shared a statement on the late Michelle Neely, faculty advisor to the URJ and assistant professor in the English department. Chancellor Venkat Reddy shared the news of her passing with the campus on Nov. 5.
“She was a constant advocate for the journal, promoting the URJ to faculty to include in their courses and arranging peer review workshops to get students involved,” Vandagriff and Farney said. “From training and mentoring our student editors to assisting with editorial meetings and journal production, Michelle was always ready and willing to help the URJ in any way she could.”
Neely began working with the URJ in 2013, and her leadership brought new life and fresh ideas to the journal, according to Vandagriff and Farney. “We all loved working with Michelle, and the URJ won’t be the same without her.”