The undergraduate research office created Spectra Undergraduate Research Journal, a biannual journal dedicated to publishing the research of undergraduate students at UNLV.
Levent Atici, executive director of undergraduate research and professor of anthropology, is leading the effort as editor, who said: Specters is a unique opportunity to showcase the research carried out by UNLV undergraduate researchers and their academic mentors.
Why is it important for UNLV to have an undergraduate research journal?
We encourage research in every university department of the UNLV. Why? Because direct participation in research at the undergraduate level improves learning and contributes significantly to overall student success. It prepares them for higher studies as well as for entry into the labor market.
We see research as an ongoing dialogue between researchers (professors, experts, post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates) to advance our collective knowledge in a given research area. Researchers achieve this fundamental premise in large part by disseminating the results of their research through conference presentations and publications.
We strive to provide our students with ample opportunities to develop and hone their research communication skills through symposia, and we are now filling a great void with our new undergraduate research journal.
Has this type of journal ever existed at UNLV?
Yes and no. UNLV students participated in a joint effort with UNR students under the auspices of Nevada State Undergraduate Research Journal until 2019, when I took charge of the undergraduate research office. At that time, after listening to the students actively involved in the previous newspaper, we decided that we needed an UNLV newspaper to create inclusive opportunities for our undergraduates. It was then that the concept of Specters emerged. The Spectra Undergraduate Research Journal is the result of productive and synergistic collaborations among many UNLV stakeholders, including my office, scholarly communications of UNLV academic libraries, academic and administrative faculty, and undergraduate researchers. In this vein, I must stress that ensuring the self-sufficiency and success of this journal is more important than its creation and we will need to maintain the same campus-wide collaboration towards this goal.
How will be Specters benefit UNLV undergraduates?
First and foremost, we demand from our undergraduate researchers the highest standards in all research related activity and encourage them to use best practices and responsible and ethical conduct. Any career seeker at any stage will tell you how overwhelming it can be to write, edit, submit, receive comment via peer review, review, and submit to. again a final product.
As such, providing undergraduates the opportunity to both understand and experience the rigorous process of scholarly publication professionalizes them. Students evolve rapidly to become producers and leaders when they generate new knowledge or contribute to the existing body of knowledge through research and publication. I always use the analogy of a table conversation with academics and experts, and tell students that they reserve a seat at the table when they get involved in research, but earn that up and join the conversation when they post. The research publication improves students’ reading and writing skills and improves their information literacy, data literacy, and understanding of methodological and theoretical programs in their field. They experience the cycle of research and investigation, moving from the question to the data, to the information, to the decision or to the solution. All of these experiences combine to contribute to students’ personal and professional development, as well as their lifelong success as critical thinkers, problem solvers, and active readers and writers.
What is your specific role?
I envision a facilitator role to promote inclusive and high quality research teaching experiences that will stimulate student participation in research. The goal is to create meaningful articulated programs and services. We offer our Research Skills Academy program with professional development and training webinars / workshops, undergraduate research symposia, research funds and programs, and now our journal.
As we structure our programs throughout the student lifecycle and train students in the publishing process, we effectively integrate research into undergraduate education through cross-fertilization. When students learn to actively read research papers and write an abstract, they feel ready and confident to write and submit an abstract to present at our seminars. When learning to write a manuscript, they also consider publishing. So, it’s sort of building an airplane by piloting it.
What are the many ways students can get involved?
In addition to submitting manuscripts for publication in our journal, students can get involved in our journal to learn more about the editorial end of the publication process. From the start, we committed to an editorial governance model that envisions significant student involvement. To this end, we have created an organizational structure with six paid positions: three undergraduate senior writers and three undergraduate assistant editors, representing the academic and demographic diversity of our campus. Unfortunately, the pandemic brought this program to an abrupt halt, preventing us from implementing this vision. But I am happy to say that we will be back with this program once we get back to normal. We want our research students to understand and experience the perspectives on both sides of the research publication barrier.
How can UNLV students and their mentors submit their research to Spectra for publication?
We have a dual-platform approach: The Spectra webpage provides our student authors with specific instructions, guidelines, along with many relevant examples and links to helpful resources that cover many aspects of publishing. When it comes to submitting a manuscript, our student authors can use the “submit article” link on the UNLV Digital Library Scholarship @ UNLV Spectra website website where we host our issues and digitally manage the entire publishing process. By using these platforms, we strongly encourage all UNLV students and their mentors to submit their research to Specters for publication. The next issue will be released in June 2021.
How would you like to Specters evolve in the future?
Our undergraduate symposia recently attracted students from other universities across the country. I envision a similar evolutionary trajectory for Specters also. We have created a legitimate open access journal that is featured in Undergraduate Research Commons and is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, a community-run online directory that indexes and provides access to other journals. I would also like to expand and stimulate undergraduate research in the arts, humanities, and some social science disciplines that are not easily and conventionally recognized as research disciplines. Likewise, the growing diversity in the representation of underserved student populations has always been an ideal champion. In short, I want to see increased diversity in all aspects of undergraduate research, including research publication. And, finally, I would like our student and faculty mentors to play a more active role in the management of the journal.
Support undergraduate researchers
I must stress that we cannot achieve anything without teacher mentors who engage students with their discipline-specific programs and content and we intervene as a supporting actor. That’s why I always seek lasting and symbiotic relationships with faculty mentors and campus partners such as Graduate College, University Libraries, Writing Center, Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach, and others to strengthen undergraduate research capacity. One of my most important goals and ideals is to cultivate a campus culture in which undergraduate research training is not optional. For me, conducting research, presenting at conferences, requesting funds and publishing should be actively encouraged and supported. I am very happy to tell you that our campus is progressing steadily and surely in this direction thanks to the strong and visible support of the senior management of the UNLV and all the resources dedicated to teaching research.