Writing, Editing, and Publishing with The Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research (JPUR)

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

Libby Joson is a sophomore majoring in Professional Writing at Purdue University.

(Soon-to-be) Alumna Spotlight: Manuela Gonzalez Y Gonzalez

Hello, my name is Manuela Gonzalez Y Gonzalez and I am a graduating senior studying English Literature at Purdue. My journey has not been a linear one; I have had many majors prior to selecting English as my final destination, but I am fortunate to say that I am graduating with a full-time position lined up at Microsoft.

What was your path to and through the English major?

I always loved literature growing up, but I was really confused about what I wanted to major in when I got to college. Somehow, I ended up choosing Biomedical Science as my first major. One science major led to another and another. While taking the classes for one of these majors, which was Physics at the time, I decided to take a course for fun called “Great American Books.” It changed my whole perspective on English.

The class helped me realize that, sometimes, it’s okay to follow your passion. That semester, I decided I was done with science. I have always loved reading, talking about books, and asking big questions; the English major aligned perfectly with these interests.

By the time I became a junior, I decided that I wanted to see what I could do outside of college. I did not want to go to graduate school. I also did not want to be a teacher. One day, I decided to look at Microsoft, because I always loved technology. As I was looking into their internships, I found a position called “Programming and Technical Writers” and I decided to apply.

What was the application and interview process like for your internship at Microsoft?

The week after I applied online, Microsoft emailed me for a phone interview. They wanted to learn about my passions, why I was studying English Literature, what kind of writing I was doing, and if I liked creative writing. They also let me know that the position that I was interviewing for was actually not as a technical writer; they were looking for a content publisher intern, which basically means writing all kinds of stuff for Microsoft.

A week after our phone conversation, Microsoft asked if I was interested in flying to Seattle and doing an on-sight interview. They emailed me on Monday, and I flew out on Wednesday.

My interview was from 8am to 5pm. In the morning, I had to do an hour-long presentation about myself. They asked me for a portfolio of my writing, and they wanted me to talk in-depth about three of these samples. Then, I had lunch with the recruiters and, after that, I had three back-to-back interviews. Every interview was so different. In one of them, I talked about my passions the whole time. They wanted to know who I was outside of school and work. I found it interesting that they were really trying to get to know me. My second interview was full of mind-trick questions. There were a lot of extremely weird hypothetical situations proposed. My third interview involved brainstorming, talking about features from my favorite technologies.

What was your day-to-day routine like while you were at this internship?

My job was divided into three main tasks: working with marketing, writing, and program managing. I had to balance all of them, but every day was different. One day may be full of meetings where my team was trying to solve a problem or decide on specifics for a product. The next day, I might be writing the whole time. I also had to compromise a lot because I was working on a team. Everyone needed to be involved and everyone’s ideas needed to be heard. Just knowing that it was a safe environment to do this was amazing.

My team never had an intern before so I was like the guinea pig for them, which was actually good because, instead of treating me like an intern, they treated me like an actual employee. The expectations were the same. They gave me authority and freedom. By the time the other interns got there, I was someone they could come to if they didn’t know what was going on.

By the end of week 12, which was my last week, I had a finished prototype. I was really excited but scared at the same time because I had to present to my manager and my manager’s manager and the manager of my manager’s manager. They were all watching my presentation for this product. I truly felt like it was a great end for my internship. And, from there, Microsoft decided that they wanted me to come back as a full-time employee after graduation.

Is there anything that you learned through your internship that you want to share with other English majors?

One of the most important things that I learned is that there is a place and a need in the tech industry for liberal arts majors. Really, it was incredible seeing 1,200 people all from liberal arts backgrounds at Microsoft working together to advocate for tech. In the past, this was not that common, as companies tended to believe that their products would speak for themselves. Now there is a shift where companies are recognizing a need to have a voice for their brands—a bridge between the engineers and the customers. That’s what we do as English majors; we tell stories. Companies need that. Otherwise they don’t survive.

We are the voice of the company. What we write, everybody reads. Learning this was empowering for me. I really wish more liberal arts students would realize that, if they are passionate about technology, there is a place for them in the industry. I hope that, with my experience, I can shine light on opportunities for Purdue students. I want people to understand the prospects an English major can have after graduation. I want them to realize that we have valuable skills that can be applied to any field.

I encourage students to do internships. I feel that getting real world experience can make all the difference. Don’t be scared to apply to things. I never thought I would get this opportunity, but I did. Don’t be discouraged. Just keep trying.

Ally Geoffray is a Junior in English Literature and Professional Writing at Purdue.