June 29, 2017

Werklund grad students launch on line journal

Peer reviewed journal focuses on educational research and psychology

Earlier this spring, graduate students in the Werklund School of Education released the first edition of Emerging Perspectives: Interdisciplinary Graduate Research in Education and Psychology (EGIPREP).  This new blind peer-reviewed journal is dedicated to publishing graduate research that brings together the fields of educational research and psychology.

Some of the journal’s editors (Maisha Syeda, Jonathan Woodend, Brit Paris, Teresa Fowler, Konstantinos Chondros and Brianna Hillman) recently talked about the genesis of the journal, the goals they’ve set for it, and how it feels to have that first edition published.


What was your goal for this first edition of your journal and the journal overall?

Maisha: One of the primary goals of the issue was to feature scholarly work of graduate students within the field of education and educational psychology (e.g., school psychology, counselling psychology). Given that this was our inaugural issue, we did not set a specific theme or area of focus as we as editors wanted to provide an open opportunity to graduate students and student reviewers to learn and gain valuable publishing skills and experiences. 

Jon: As for the journal, one of the objectives of the journal was that we wanted it to not just be a journal; we wanted it to be a journal that filled a niche, a journal that targeted a gap that students needed to bridge into ideas. I think sometimes, if we’re honest about it, there is a lot of stigma against education and psychology--that they’re not competitive in terms of research and things like that, compared to the hard sciences like physics and chemistry, for example. I think a journal based in education, based in Werklund School of Education, was an opportunity to build not only the confidence of ourselves, but other students to make that bridge into publication.

Brianna: For me, it was important as an objective to have the mentorship piece, and the learning piece. At various times we’ve kind of pulled back from offers from faculty to help with the journal because we didn’t want it to be taken over or run by them. We really wanted it to be a student-led journal, and we really wanted to set up the process where you do the module online so you get some idea of what is expected of you and what you need to do. For example, if we get papers that seem like they are not ready yet, to be able to work with the authors and say “here’s what you can do, what else can we do to help you.” It’s not enough just to know that the manuscript is not good enough, we need an opportunity to learn, to be taught.

Teresa: To build onto Brianna’s thoughts, being the editor in charge of reviewing book reviews has been eye opening in that almost half of the ones submitted struggled with reviewing a book and then expressing their understandings on paper. Some of the writers had experience with publishing and this showed but the majority had not, so I did not really recognize how much mentorship was going to be involved with this small aspect of the journal. Clearly, mentorship and learning opportunities are a critical objective for the journal.


What were some the challenges and/or surprises you discovered in the process of coordinating and publishing a journal?

Maisha: I don’t believe our peers are enthusiastic yet about our journal, and our journal is essentially established for graduate students. I think we are still missing this, students are not relating to the journal, where they feel that this establishment will play some role to enhance their graduate training. We need to spark that engagement and enthusiasm. We need to reach out to students. During the year, I had some time to reflect to think about who is our target audience for authors? We say it in our mandate that our journal is a good platform for beginning authors to gain publishing experience, but maybe, our beginning authors don’t have the resources, coaching or the mentorship to engage with the publication process yet.

Jon: I saw that as a barrier too. Sometimes we give lip service to research; we talk about it and its importance, but there’s not as much action toward completing it. Part of this inaction is that there is no formal guidance, or structured way into the publication world. I could see why students may say “Yes, I would love to be a published author,” but they don’t have the model to follow to help them through this process. Does that make sense?

Teresa: It is similar to the hidden and implicit curriculum of graduate school...things that others just assume we know so they do not teach it out right. As graduate students, many of us are also research assistants. I find that many of these roles are often on the back burner, but your principal investigator or the supervisor does not stop, pause, and teach you how to publish, show you how to a develop a good manuscript, and give you examples of journals to publish. Maybe, it is the expectation that we will learn this on our own. But, publishing needs support and mentorship.

Konstantinos: This past year, I also found it difficult to juggle everything that was going on. I realize that I have some accountability to my role as an editor. For me that has been hard, with especially dealing with my doctoral candidacy process, trying to juggle that and other commitments, and then being accountable to the journal and being responsible to getting back to authors timely. This editorial position is voluntary after all. I am not telling myself that this needs to be on the back burner because it is voluntary, but trying to do all these things, being a doctoral student, I am pretty sure it’s not just me because we all have our fingers in 20 different pots. So, I was wondering if that’s a common experience, or across the board, other people have thought about those things? Just wondering….

Brit: I agree, Konstantinos, and thank you for bringing up this issue. We have our hands in various pots and we are trying to balance or juggle it all. I wonder whether our commitments to our own research, work, graduate training, etc. are interfering in our ability to be efficient to follow-up with authors to remind them to address our review comments and re-submit their manuscript for second or third review. As graduate students, we take courses, take on research and teaching assistantships, prepare and take candidacy exams, prepare for and present at conferences, and of course, work on our own research. These responsibilities take time but the work we do as the journal editors are diverse, time-consuming, demands attention and our best effort. As editors, we all are doing initial reviews of manuscripts, choosing which reviewers should review the manuscript, oversee and sometimes collaborate in the reviewing process, and then based on the review outcomes, we have to work with the authors and reviewers to process and coordinate the re-submission process.

Teresa: I agree totally, as much as I was looking to fill an emptiness and collaborate with grad students I also wonder about balance. Is all of this hard work we are doing not going to open up opportunities for us? But then I remind myself that service is a large part of my life and whether or not anything transpires for me career wise, I revel in the relationships I have built over the years with colleagues, peers, and past students. As stressful as it all gets I like to think that this investment is paying off not only by our providing opportunities for other grad students to publish and review but now within this group we have built a strong relationship with each other.

Maisha: Yes, there is no doubt that creating the journal has been a rewarding process. However, I think we also have to be less hard on ourselves and like I said earlier, acknowledge that this position demands time. Brit, you are also right, if we think we are not responding to authors timely, maybe we could take some pre-emptive measures to smoothen the review and re-submission processes for our authors. Maybe it’s time to review our website to evaluate when an author about to submit their manuscript, are they aware of the journal’s expectations and requirements? Maybe, we need samples on our website? We are having ongoing discussions about creating video tutorials to support students to develop manuscripts, we should start working on that, and other resources that could be disseminated to help students with manuscript writing.

Jon: That makes me think further about collaborating with our faculty. Like I mentioned earlier, if students are writing these manuscripts in their courses, they will be receiving mentorship from a faculty member, which will inherently strengthen their manuscripts, which will benefit the review process that we will undergo after. Basically, I think that the mentorship process can start happening even before the student gets to submitting their manuscript to EPIGREP. Perhaps this will increase our workload, if students start preparing manuscripts in their courses and submit en masse, however, I think that is mitigated by faculties’ expertise already being incorporated in the evaluation of the manuscript/paper. Is this how we find a balance between engaging students but also not overtaxing our already busy schedules?

Brianna: I think the balancing acts that we are all doing underscore why collaboration and mentorship are so important. We can’t all do everything but sharing the load and being open to the help and expertise that are available are just some of the aspects of grad school that result in growth. 


Who do you hope will read it, and what do you think they will take away from it?

Jon: From this issue and the journal in general, I hope that readers will gain an appreciation for the valuable contributions that graduate students as emerging scholars can offer to their respective fields. Moreover, that the publication process is a journey that students can start engaging in early in their academic career, and with the support and help of fellow students, rather waiting until they've completed their theses or degrees, or needing to rely on supervisors or other faculty members exclusively.

Maisha: I hope the readers appreciate the diversity of research that is conducted in the fields of education and educational psychology. Yet, we are able to come together and share our research and academic and empirical perspectives on a journal platform. Plus, similar to what Jon said, as editors, we hope that the issue empowers and encourages beginning authors to collaborate with their peers and seek mentorship from their supervisors and academic mentors to develop research manuscripts.