“Showcase” vs. “Selective” Undergraduate Research JournalsProviding the Most Benefit to Students, Institutions, and the Academic Community
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As Western post-secondary institutions strive to adequately prepare undergraduate students for an ever-changing world, increased interest and investment has been directed towards the undergraduate learning experience. Listed as a high-impact practice (Kuh 10), undergraduate research, in particular, has been increasingly implemented and expanded in a number of institutions over the past several decades, as shown by the growth of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR n. pag.). With the rise of undergraduate research culture, the undergraduate research journal (URJ) has emerged. URJs run within a university provide students with the opportunity to enhance their education through exposure to scholarly publishing, develop their research and communication skills, view themselves as content creators, produce higher quality work, and improve their graduate school applications or resumes by building essential skills for the changing job market. Despite the variability present in URJ formats, I have defined two broad categories which URJs fall into. Distinguished as “showcase” and “selective” journals, the two types are differentiated by the implementation of a peer-review process with “showcase” journals publishing papers that have not undergone peer-review and “selective” journals qualifying as scholarly publications. With the intent of providing the maximum benefit to the greatest number of students, a “showcase” journal, without the rigours of peer-review, may appear to be the best fit for achieving this goal as it has the potential to see more student papers published. However, the “selective” showcase journal provides the most cumulative benefits for the student, the institution, and the wider academic community. This is due to experiencing the submission process, which provides students with feedback from reviewers; the prestige of publishing in or housing a high-quality journal; and, growing a discipline’s body of knowledge. While providing any type of publishing platform for undergraduate student work will benefit students, institutions may wish to consider the additional worth of “selective” journals when developing an undergraduate research journal program.