Undergraduate research at Purdue helps students become published writers. The mission of the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research (JPUR), in particular, is to showcase undergraduate research happening on campus. “It’s really part and parcel of the educational mission of the University,” says Professor Kristina Bross, an English Department faculty member who as been a part of the Journal’s advisory board for many years. “It’s designed to help you all take the cool work that you are doing and bring it to the world.”
JPUR is an open-access journal run by Purdue students that publishes about 2,000 faculty-mentored research projects each year with the help of the Purdue University Press, Purdue University Libraries, Purdue Marketing and Media, and the English Department’s own Writing Lab. Since it is open-access, one of the Journal’s best features is that it does not charge institutions or the public for its use; readers can read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of JPUR’s online and print articles for free. The Office of the Provost sponsors the publication.
Whether you are interested in getting published or joining the editorial board, you’re probably wondering about the process that articles go through. Professor Bross says that the Journal’s process is much shorter than other journal proposals and it is designed to help students come to publication quickly. JPUR doesn’t just look for the person whose piece is already polished and ready for publishing; they also appreciate the developmental nature of research.
When a student submits an abstract, the abstract goes through a blind review. The writer of the abstract does not know who is doing the review and the editorial board does not know who wrote the abstract. The editorial board often makes suggestions for strengthening the work and sometimes, when they do say no to a piece, they ask the writer to revise and resubmit it. The review process has two tiers. The first tier is when the proposal is sent out to a subject specialist and that specialist tells the board if it is good work. The question asked is, “Will this have an audience that seems like a good fit for the Journal?” Then, the editorial board will look at the abstract and advisory board members like Prof. Bross will make a final assessment about what to do.
As of now, not as many English students submit to the Journal compared to those in other disciplines, but Professor Bross believes that English majors have offered some of the most accessible articles. “The interesting thing about JPUR is that it came out of a project promoted by the faculty on the more STEM end of things,” says Bross, “Then, under the previous director of the Press, they wanted to make it open to all disciplines…. I think it has been successful because it’s a general audience journal.”
“Get involved on the editorial board, absolutely, but our students should also be proposing,” she adds. “You get a great experience of taking a project that you’ve worked on and really pushing yourself to polish it, finish it, and make it with a real audience in mind that’s really going to read it.” In other words, the Journal distributes your work broadly beyond class where the general public can access it. Publication looks great on a resume regardless of career interest. It can also be a stepping-stone to other kinds of publications.
JPUR is also open to English majors interested in serving on its student editorial board. “There’s nothing that helps you refine your own practice more than looking at examples by so many others and trying to help them refine and sharpen their work,” Professor Bross says. The editorial board is involved in both making constructive comments and the publication decision process. Students are given the opportunity to gain experience in formal reviews of interdisciplinary writing. Being on the editorial board is a reciprocal experience; you bring your expertise to help others but you also can reflect on our own work, helping you to improve your own writing over the long term.
One such student is Eliza Van, a senior in English Literature who was the journal’s coordinator from August 2017 until August 2019. “The experience of working with JPUR isn’t just a resume-booster. It really helps you become a better writer, reader, and well-rounded English major,” Van says. “Being on the other side of the submission process, helping authors develop their articles was a great opportunity to learn how to match [readers’] expectations in writing and use the knowledge I had from English classes.” English majors, in particular, have the opportunity to take 400-level literature capstone courses, out of which great research essays for the Journal could come. “I’d encourage students in 400-level courses … [to] polish up and propose” something, she says.
As Journal Coordinator, Van’s duties varied, but her primary job was to oversee the journal’s operations. She was responsible for a long list of tasks: recruiting, leading, and training the student editorial board; mailing journals across campus and the country; managing emails and social media accounts; communicating with potential and accepted student authors; and accumulating faculty reviews for each submission. Basically, Van got experience in a little bit of everything, and then, in her second year, JPUR hired a marketing coordinator who took over distribution and the social media accounts. “Coordinating an entire volume of a full-length academic journal is hard work, but the satisfaction at the finish is unbeatable,” she says. Not many college students can say they had these many responsibilities in a position.
In short, JPUR leaves room for students to use their talents in a professional space, while also working on new skills. “No matter what your background is, you will encounter research from fields you didn’t know existed,” Van says, “It is enlightening and challenges you to get outside of your comfort zone and learn as you go.”
Libby Joson is a sophomore majoring in Professional Writing at Purdue University.