This is Part 1 of a 2-Part series arguing that Transy should charter its own undergraduate research journal. Read Part 2 here.
Transy students do a lot of writing. This school is notorious for a writing-intensive curriculum that turns just about every student into a miniature essayist for four years or so. Whether they’re writing for classes, outside projects, or just sheer irrepressible linguistic creativity, the printers on campus always seem to be running low.
Without putting a hard and fast percentage on it, it’s fair to say that a pretty high percentage of that student writing is done for various classes. Some percentage of that class writing, further, is fairly high-level research writing for upper-level classes (though First Year Seminar also leads to some very high-quality work). As of now, most of those papers are turned in to professors, graded, and then returned to the student writers.
That’s all well and good, but this situation represents a squandered opportunity. One of the twin pillars of modern academia is publishing (the other pillar is teaching—see this column on how Transy could further support teaching). Publishing original research papers is the best way for both an individual to propel their academic or professional career forward, and the best way for a sponsoring institution to raise its profile among the academic community. This is often summed up in a pithy saying common among academics: to survive in academia, you have to “publish or perish.”
Right now, Transy faculty regularly publishes a wide variety of research in an even wider variety of publications; this is, to be blunt, a good thing. However, simply looking at the publishing rate of Transy faculty obscures an important truth: there’s a lot of fascinating and original scholarship being written every year by Transy students, for various classes, that’s never being exposed to a wider audience. While Transy students are regularly writing high-level, high-quality research papers, the vast majority of those papers will never see the light of day beyond a particular professor’s classroom. This is a wasted opportunity for Transy students. In short, Transy students have the opportunity to publish their original scholarship while still getting their Transy undergraduate degree. There are serious advantages to doing so, even if those advantages aren’t always articulated very well. So let’s look at some of those advantages.
Many Transy students will go on to pursue advanced degrees in myriad fields; one of the major differences between undergraduate and advanced degrees is the expectation that graduate students will pursue their own research. So for Transy students who will go on to further education, already having some experience with the process of submitting and revising scholarly articles for publication will allow those students to thrive in grad schools. In addition, the mere fact of having published academically rigorous work while in undergrad is likely to make Transy students’ applications to grad schools that much more attractive to grad schools themselves. Publishing in undergrad, in other words, would give Transy students a leg up in grad schools. Further, the experience of publishing an academic article may prompt many students who may otherwise have never considered an academic career to consider it (though whether this is actually a good thing is a matter for another column).
But the advantages to publishing academic works aren’t only limited to the budding academics among the student population. The revision process for publishing academic articles can improve just about any student’s writing, strengthening one of the most important skills someone can have in today’s economy. The revision process may also be useful in strengthening and sharpening students’ reasoning skills. There’s a practical reason to for students publish, in other words.
Transy students could see massive personal benefits, in both their academic and professional lives, from publishing while here at Transy. Transy’s unique curriculum and atmosphere are conducive high-quality student scholarship that offers Transy students the opportunity to create high-quality scholarship that can and should be published. Next time we’ll take a look at how Transy can encourage students to publish their own work.