Once the work of investigation, data collection, and analysis are done, most researchers set their sights on a milestone that marks the finish line: publishing their findings in a research journal.
But publication competition is intense, and many undergraduate students—up against well-established career researchers and graduate students—never get the opportunity.
That’s changing for UNLV undergraduate students, thanks to the Nevada State Undergraduate Research Journal (NSURJ). It is one of many journals around the country devoted solely to opening doors for undergraduate researchers seeking to publish, providing a place where these budding researchers can share new knowledge and start a dialogue with their peers—and build their CVs in the process.
The journal’s senior editors and Scott Mensing, director of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Office of Undergraduate Research, have been visiting UNLV since 2015, to expand collaboration with UNLV on the journal, encourage students to submit work, and help install a senior editor for NSURJ at UNLV.
With the support of UNLV’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and CSUN (UNLV’s undergraduate student government), UNR’s last goal recently became a reality. Hannah Patenaude, an Honors College junior double major in chemistry and communications studies, became UNLV’s first senior editor for NSURJ late last fall. She’s raising awareness about this opportunity available to UNLV undergraduates and helping to guide them through the process of submitting to and publishing in the journal. Here, she tells us a little more about the journal and all it has to offer.
Your role with NSURJ is a new one. How did it come to be created?
NSURJ has been around for about three years, so it’s still relatively new. And even though they accept submissions from any NSHE institution, NSURJ hasn’t received many submissions from Southern Nevada because it’s not very well known in this area yet. To address this issue in our region, CSUN Vice President Jayson Dagher, CSUN Assistant Director of Student Journals for the Engagement Department Britney Trieu, and OUR started an editorial branch of NSURJ here in Southern Nevada based out of UNLV. Up until now, the journal was run exclusively through the University of Nevada, Reno, but we hope that this new collaboration will result in greater representation of all undergraduate researchers in Nevada.
What is your specific role?
As a senior editor at UNLV, I’ll be helping to promote the journal in Southern Nevada, overseeing submissions coming from undergraduates in this region while collaborating with the editorial team at UNR on production. We’re also tossing around the idea of holding workshops for students who want to be peer reviewers and providing training on manuscript writing and submission, which is not very straightforward if you’ve never gone through the process. We have some pretty big plans.
There’s mutual excitement for this expansion, here and at UNR. It’s going to have a positive impact for everyone involved. It will showcase the caliber of students at NSHE institutions because their unique and impactful research will be out there. And we hope that, in turn, will spark even more undergraduate research.
How will NSURJ benefit students?
NSURJ’s goal is to provide professional development opportunities for undergraduates and help them advance their careers. That applies to students who write for the journal as well as those who serve as peer reviewers. We want all undergraduates who are interested in professional-level research to be well-equipped once they graduate, and NSURJ provides opportunities for that.
Publishing before you graduate with your bachelor’s is not very common, so it’s exciting when it happens, and it’s a great way to boost your CV while communicating your work to a large number of people who are interested in what you’re doing. It’s also a great opportunity for students who want to continue researching once they graduate because they’ll already know what the process is going to be like when they go to publish in other journals.
What are the different ways students can get involved?
We want as many students as possible to submit manuscripts for publication. One great thing about NSURJ is that it’s not subject-specific, so it can include any academic research that’s happening. This allows for more students to submit their work, and it also gives the journal a very well-rounded view because you can see that universities in Nevada are doing so much great research in all these different areas.
Right now I’m the only student working on NSURJ in Southern Nevada, but we would like to bring on one or two associate editors, and we’ll be reaching out to find students who are interested in volunteering as peer reviewers for submitted articles. We’ll need people from various subject areas like sociology, geology, and engineering to create a well-rounded group. CSUN and OUR will put out advertisements for those positions when they are available. Having experience as an editor or peer reviewer looks great on a CV and can also help students stand out on applications for graduate schools.
What should students know about the submission process with NSURJ?
UNR has developed a template for how submitted manuscripts should be structured, including word limits for the title and abstract. It also gives examples of how figures and works cited should be formatted. This template and other guidance can be found on the NSURJ website.
Once a manuscript is submitted, there will probably some sort of back-and-forth between the student authors and the editorial team where edits will be suggested, and then the piece will be revised and published.
One thing to note is that anyone who’s graduated in the last 18 months can still submit their research for publication in NSURJ, so even if a student is graduating this semester, they still have the opportunity to publish with us. We don’t want to have a student who put all that time and effort into their research not to have this chance to publish just because they recently got their diploma.
For more information, email Hannah Patenaude at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the NSURJ website.