Checking my emails over the weekend, I found one that described and linked to the Journal of Young Investigators (JYI), a peer-reviewed research journal that publishes original undergraduate research in science, math and engineering. JYI, established and still run entirely by undergraduate students, is published monthly online.
There are a number of reasons why undergraduate journals are valuable to students. As an undergrad, I’ve often felt that I live in a parallel universe: producing papers and lab reports, writing exams and sitting through lectures with the goal of coming out on the other side with a piece of paper proclaiming my academic worth.
A degree is a great thing, but in the process of getting it, heaps of my scholastic work have invariably ended up scattered throughout various real and virtual wastelands, stored somewhere between my computer’s inexhaustible memory and the recycling bin outside my front door. A major part of feeling isolated from the real world derives from the fact that while I am constantly mimicking professionals and academics, my labours are rarely, if ever, put to any palpable or quantitative use.
I know, there are skills and knowledge gained in four years that can’t be thrown out. They’ll be forever etched into my brain. But what about the rest of my hard work, those papers so diligently written, reports completed late in the night? And most important, what about all of the truly original work I produced?
This is where undergraduate journals can be really useful. JYI, for example, is an international publication that covers a breadth of scientific material. It accepts articles, reviews and editorials (in English). Featured articles must be written by undergraduates and have to include work that was conducted while still an undergrad student. But if you’ve already graduated – and are working or in grad school- you can still submit other types of work.
Each submission requires two forms: a submission form filled out by you (the writer), and an advisor approval form filled out by your mentor or supervisor. After applying, judging is conducted by two students and their advisors and it’s based on several criteria: presentation and quality of writing, and the originality and merit of the research. You’re informed of whether or not your work has been accepted within a couple of weeks of submitting.
Although JYI is an American publication, it also accepts (on a case-by-case basis) undergraduate students who want to get involved in working for the journal. A list of available positions can be found on the journal’s website, as can application instructions.
JYI is obviously not the only undergraduate journal around. U of T, through its multifarious departments, produces many. A short list of examples:
Journal of Undergraduate Life Sciences (JULS): an annual publication with a fall deadline, JULS publishes articles, letters and reviews written by undergraduate students.
The Future of History: another annual publication with a winter deadline, the History Students Association publishes undergraduate papers (no document-studies allowed) written both independently and for history classes.
The University of Toronto Undergraduate Journal of Political Science: A journal publishing the work of political science students.
It’s great that the work that we accomplish as undergrads can be put to constructive use, accomplishing more than simply getting us a mark. Rather than only emulating the labours performed by professionals, our work can supercede the dusty backwaters of computer memories- leaving me feeling a little more in touch with the world outside of undergraduate studies.