Undergraduate Research Journal in German Studies or History

The best college students spend hours writing research papers — collecting materials, analyzing their findings, and fine-tuning their writing. Too often, though, the products of these efforts end up being read by their professors and perhaps a devoted parent or friend, then to be filed away and never to be seen again.

 This blog post suggests a way that students could build on their semester’s work and share their research findings within their college community. At my institution, Indiana University South Bend, my department has pioneered an undergraduate research journal course for one-unit of credit. In this course, the student editor-in-chief of the journal co-teaches the course with one faculty member, and the enrolled students become assistant editors for the journal. The students in the class craft the criteria for acceptance of journal articles; they select the articles to be published; they work closely with authors to improve the articles, and then they copy-edit the final products. The course is as beneficial for the assistant editors as it is for the article authors in that students have a chance to deepen their understanding of what makes for excellent academic writing. They can see the kind of research their fellow students can produce and learn to debate collegially with the fellow members of their course. In this way, students in this class practice the soft skills that 21st century employers are seeking that relate to leadership, team building, and interpersonal communication.

The students in the department’s research journal have gone on to work as the core of the department’s student club. The sense of community that was created through this course, as well as the common commitment to high academic standards, continues to mold the student culture in our department.

 I teach in a small history department and our journal is a history journal, but there is no reason that this model of a journal production course would not work equally well for a German Studies department or program.

Finally this model of a 1-unit course provides some way to acknowledge the hands-on work of faculty members in mentoring student research. At my institution, after a faculty member teaches this 1-unit the course three times, that faculty member receives a one semester course reduction.

For more information see this semester’s syllabus here

I also welcome questions and comments at this blog or directly to my email at zwicker [at] iusb.edu