1999-2000 Hunt Award Research Report
Undergraduate Student Journals: Perceptions and Familiarity by Faculty
Joseph R. Ferrari, Ph.D.
Stephen F. Davis, Ph.D.
Emporia State University
Little is known about undergraduate, student-based journals in which many students may decide to publish their research paper. In the present study, 195 Psi Chi faculty advisors and 187 other faculty completed a survey that assessed 5 student-based psychology journals. Five brief questions were asked about each journal. Overall, on 7-point rating scales, most faculty reported that they did not know the student-based journals very well (M = 2.33), were not very likely to recommend these periodicals as publication outlets of research for anyone who planned to pursue doctoral studies in psychology (M = 3.32), and if they were reviewing applicants for admission in a doctoral psychology program, would not place much acceptance emphasis on a student applicant who had published in one of these student-based journals (M = 3.49). Furthermore, very few faculty reported they knew anyone who published in these student-based journals (5.1 %), or that their institution's library subscribed to these journals (6.2%).
Many undergraduate psychology majors continue to seek admission into doctoral programs (Landrum, Davis, & Landrum, 2000; Norcross, Sayette, Mayne, Karg, & Turkson, 1998; Norcross, Hanych, & Terranova, 1996). Surveys of graduate psychology programs consistently revealed that research experience (i.e., working on a project through data collection and entry, presenting one's original scholarly work, or authorship credit on an article published in a scholarly journal) impresses graduate admission committees for both basic and applied (e.g., clinical) programs (Keith-Spiegel, 1991; Landrum, Jeglum, & Cashin, 1994; Mayne, Norcross, & Sayette, 1994; Norcross et al., 1998; Palladino, Carsrud, Hulicka, & Benjamin, 1982). In fact, current and former students of psychology programs reported that empirical research experience helped advance their careers and improved their skills (Carmody, 1998; Cashin & Landrum, 1991).
To assist students who wish to publish their work, authors have outlined and discussed effective ways to prepare a manuscript for publication review (see Clark, 1997; Miller, 1997; Prohaska, 2000). Manuscripts submitted to professional journals typically receive close scrutiny from experts in the specific topic (called "referees": Miller & Servan, 1984) who provide input on whether or not a paper is accepted for publication. The review process is long and tedious, and rejection rates for submissions may be quite high, thereby discouraging young scholars (Meyers, Reid, & Quina, 1998; Sternberg, 1993; Suinn & Witt, 1982). Still, having one's research actually published provides the opportunity to contribute to the literature of a specific topic (Ross, 1987). Student-based journals have been created to provide a forum for student (usually undergraduate) research. Powell (2000) reported that student-based journals have higher acceptance rates than professional journals, although publications in them are not as prestigious as in professional journals. Furthermore, he claimed that undergraduates with a publication "really impress graduate schools," and that publication in a student-based journal "looks very good on a résumé and application" (p. 29). We decided to explore this claim by conducting a national survey of U.S. faculty teaching at liberal arts colleges, teaching universities, or essentially research universities.
We compared faculty advisors of an honor society in psychology with other academic faculty on their knowledge and opinions of a sample of student-based journals. Psi Chi, founded in 1929, is the world's largest honor society in psychology, with over 950 chapters and more than 350,000 members. Psi Chi chapters, which are located at accredited institutions across the U.S., each have a faculty advisor who supervises and facilitates the operations of the chapter. Membership in this organization allows students to gain professional experiences, hone their research skills, and meet distinguished leaders in psychology (Chamberlin, 1999). The organization also offers numerous grants to fund undergraduate research, awards for top research projects presented at professional conferences, and even has a student-based journal, the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research. Thus, it is possible that Psi Chi advisors would be well informed about research opportunities, such as publication outlets, for undergraduate psychology students.
Five student-based journals were selected as leading outlets for student research1: (a) Journal of Psychological Inquiry, founded in 1996 by the Great Plains Behavioral Research Association, which publishes historical pieces, empirical papers, and literature reviews by undergraduate student authors; (b) Journal of Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences, established in 1966 at Fairleigh Dickinson University, which publishes undergraduate or graduate research articles; (c) Modern Psychological Studies, founded in 1992 and available through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which publishes primarily empirical papers by undergraduate authors; (d) Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, established in 1997 as an online journal for undergraduate research and which operates from George Fox University; and (e) Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, founded in 1995 to present empirical research studies by undergraduate students.
In sum, although publication of one's research as a student may have a positive impact on acceptance into doctoral graduate programs, little is known about the perception and familiarity of student-based journals by faculty. Because advisors work closely with undergraduates to help prepare them for graduate studies through research presentations and publications, it seems probable that they would be aware of the five student journals in psychology and rate them higher than nonadvisor faculty. Furthermore, we expected faculty who taught at primarily undergraduate institutions compared to faculty from either teaching universities or (especially) research universities to report greater awareness and more positive ratings of student-based journals in psychology.
Mailing labels containing the current name and school address for each of the 950 faculty advisors of Psi Chi were provided by Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. Also, a random sample of 950 current American Psychological Society (APS) members' names and school mailing addresses were generated from the 1999 APS Directory of Members. We selected APS as the source for the nonadvisor faculty since most of its members are instructors at colleges and universities. Fifteen envelopes from each faculty sample were returned because there were no forwarding addresses, thereby reducing the sample size for each group to 935 potential respondents. From these samples, a total of 195 Psi Chi advisors (20.8%) and 187 nonadvisor faculty (20%) participated in the current survey. These return rates were comparable with other recent mailed surveys to psychology faculty (e.g., Gimmestad & Goldsmith, 1973, 19.6%; Landrum et al., 1994, 26.7%; Levine, Goodstone, & Levine, 2000, 25.3%).
Across both samples, respondents' reports indicated that their institutions had a mean of 362 undergraduate psychology majors, 50 graduate students, and 17 full-time psychology faculty. Respondents identified their institution as a "teaching university" that offers bachelor's and typically master's-level degrees (49.7%; n = 190), a "liberal arts college" that offers exclusively bachelor's degrees (33.8%; n = 129), or primarily a "research university" that offers doctoral degrees (16.5%; n = 63). A majority of respondents also indicated their school was a public institution (59.5%).
During the first weeks of 2000, both samples of faculty were mailed a cover letter, survey, and return postage-paid envelope. The cover letter, signed by both authors, stated that this was a survey regarding journals in psychology and that results of the project would assist in the educating and training of students who seek admission into graduate psychology programs. The postage-paid envelopes facilitated the return process.
For each journal, the following five items were asked of respondents: (1) How well do you know this periodical? (1 = not at all; 7 = very well); (2) Have you or any member of your Psychology Department ever published in this periodical? (yes, no, don't know); (3) Does your school's library subscribe to this periodical? (yes, no, don't know); (4) If an undergraduate in your Department wanted to continue toward doctoral studies in psychology, how strongly would you recommend this periodical as an outlet for the student in which to publish his/her research? (1 = not at all; 7 = very much); (5) Assuming you were reviewing an applicant for admission into a graduate program in psychology, how much emphasis or weight would his/her publication in this periodical play in your acceptance decision? (1 = not at all; 7 = very much).
We also asked respondents to state which degrees were offered by their department, the number of undergraduate and graduate majors and faculty in their department, and what label best describes their institution's degree offerings or program (i.e., liberal arts college, teaching university, or research university). Respondents were asked to return their completed survey within 6 weeks, and pilot testing indicated it would take a person about 10 min to complete the entire survey.
Analysis of Faculty Familiarity With Student-Based Journals
We first examined (through chi-square analyses) the frequency of participants who responded that they had personally published or knew someone who had published in each student journal, and whether they knew if their institution's school library subscribed to each student journal. The percentage of affirmative ("yes") respondents for each item are listed in Table 1. As noted from the table, very few participants had ever published (or knew a colleague who published) in these periodicals, and very few knew if their school library subscribed to these student-based journals. In fact, results showed that most participants (63%) had not published nor knew a colleague who had published in the student-based journals, and that most participants (56%) were not sure if their school library subscribed to these journals.
However, these patterns were not applicable for the Psi Chi Journal. Table 1 indicates that advisors, compared to nonadvisors, were significantly more likely to have personally published or know someone who had published in the Psi Chi Journal, X2(2, n = 376) = 77.14, p < .001. Advisors, compared to nonadvisors, also were significantly more aware that their school library subscribed to the Psi Chi Journal, X2(2, n = 376) = 69.88, p < .001.
Analysis of Faculty Perceptions of Student-Based Journals
A 2 (faculty group: advisors vs. nonadvisors) Yen 3 (program level: bachelor-level college, teaching university, vs. research university) multivariate analysis of variance was performed for each of the three rating items across the five student-based journals. Table 1 presents the mean ratings per periodical for each of these 7-point scales. There were significant main effects for faculty group, F(15, 272) = 5.67, p < .001, and for pro-gram level, F(15, 272) = 6.48, p < .001. No interaction effect was obtained.
Univariate analyses indicated that on the item "How well do you know this journal?" there were significant main effects for faculty group on the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, F(15, 285) = 4.09, p < .04, and the Psi Chi Journal, F(1, 285) = 65.80, p < .001, with advisors significantly more aware of these journals than nonadvisors. Also on this item, there were significant main effects for program level on the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, F(2, 285) = 7.67, p < .001, and the Psi Chi Journal, F(2, 285) = 19.28, p < .001. Post hoc tests (Newman-Keuls, p < .05) found that faculty from bachelor-level colleges were significantly more likely to know both these periodicals than faculty from teaching or research universities (see Table 1).
On the item "If an undergraduate in your Department wanted to continue toward doctoral studies in psychology, how strongly would you recommend this periodical as an outlet for the student in which to publish his/her research?", univariate analyses indicated that there were significant differences between faculty groups for the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, F(1, 285) = 3.86, p < .05, and the Psi Chi Journal, F(1, 285) = 12.69, p < .001. Advisors were more likely than non-advisors to recommend these two periodicals to an undergraduate wanting to publish research (see Table 1). Univariate analyses also showed significant main effects for program level on four of the five student-based journals: Journal of Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences, F(2, 285) = 7.65, p < .001, Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, F(2, 285) = 18.85, p < .001, Modern Psychological Studies, F(2, 285) = 12.37, p < .001, and the Psi Chi Journal, F(2, 285) = 23.64, p < .001. In each case, post hoc tests (Newman-Keuls, p < .05) indicated that faculty from bachelor-level colleges were more likely than faculty at other program levels to recommend the student-based journal to an undergraduate who wanted to publish in order to improve admission to a doctoral psychology graduate program (see Table 1).
Finally, on the item "Assuming you were reviewing an applicant for admission into a graduate program in psychology, how much emphasis or weight would his/her publication in this periodical play in your acceptance decision?", there were significant main effects for faculty group on all five journals: the Journal of Psychological Inquiry, F(1, 285) = 5.79, p < .02, Journal of Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences, F(1, 285) = 8.65, p < .004, Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, F(1, 285) = 9.11, p < .003, Modern Psychological Studies, F(1, 285) = 6.76, p < .01, and the Psi Chi Journal, F(1, 285) = 14.22, p < .001. In each case, advisors rated the student-based journal stronger than did nonadvisors (see Table 1). Also, there were significant main effects on this same item for program level for the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, F(2, 275) = 7.78, p < .001, and the Psi Chi Journal, F(2, 275) = 12.04, p < .001. With both these student-based journals, post hoc tests (Newman-Keuls, p < .05) indicated that faculty from bachelor-level colleges were more likely than those from a research university to consider an undergraduate with the journal publication favorably for acceptance in a doctoral program (see Table 1).
The results of this national survey about student-based journals is striking. First, it seems that Psi Chi advisors and nonadvisors were not aware of most student-based psychology journals--they rated them as fairly unfamiliar, they did not know anyone who published in them, and they were not even cognizant whether their institution's library subscribed to the journals. The Psi Chi Journal was more recognizable by Psi Chi advisors than nonadvisors. This result is not surprising, of course, because the advisors have more direct access to the journal. It was surprising to us, however, that the Psi Chi advisors did not give the Psi Chi Journal higher percentages or mean ratings on the five survey questions. It seemed logical to expect these faculty, assumed advocates for undergraduates, to know these student journals very well, recommend them often, and value publications in the journals.
Second, and with greater consequences for a doctoral applicant, it seems that faculty from research universities were least likely to consider a student publication in one of these journals favorably. The present study found that faculty who work at research universities, compared to faculty at bachelor-level colleges or teaching universities, reported the lowest ratings and percentages across each of the student-based journals. We found a significant relationship between rating one's institution as a research university and whether the school offered a PhD degree (r = 0.63, p < .001). It seems quite plausible that faculty from research universities would make decisions about graduate school acceptance assuming they offered a doctoral program. Contrary to popular opinion (e.g., Carmody, 1998; Keith-Spiegel, 1991; Powell, 2000), it seems that any scholarly publication by a student may not necessarily be advantageous to acceptance into graduate school.
The present survey, of course, did have several limitations. For instance, the low return rate of respondents may limit generalizations to a biased sample of Psi Chi advisors and nonadvisors. In addition, the nonadvisors--general faculty randomly selected from APS and then surveyed in this study--may not have major roles in doctoral admission committees. Perhaps a survey of chairs of graduate doctoral programs in psychology may have been a better sample to survey. Future research with a larger, different sample, and with other journals for comparison and other questions, is needed.
These considerations notwithstanding, we believe the present survey has merit. This study was the first to systematically collect the opinions of faculty toward undergraduate psychology periodicals. Clearly, undergraduate student-based journals have a familiarity problem. Editors and publishers of these journals need to increase faculty and institution awareness of the journals. Consequently, students who publish in these journals would have greater exposure for their work, and that, in turn, may facilitate their personal and professional goals. At the present time, it seems that telling undergraduates that publishing in a student-based journal is advantageous for their professional career and acceptance into psychology graduate school (Powell, 2000) does not seem warranted.
Because of the greater awareness of the Psi Chi Journal by its faculty advisors, Psi Chi may not be faced with as great a "public relations" issue as are the other student-based journals. However, it is clearly needful for Psi Chi to make its journal and its high standards of scholarship and rigor known to a broader audience that includes faculty at all types of academic institutions. This consciousness-raising process also needs to include an outreach to Psi Chi advisors who still may be unaware of the Psi Chi Journal.
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1 The website for APA's Division 2, devoted to the teaching of psychology, lists these five student-based journals as outlets for undergraduate publications (www.lemoyne.edu/OTRP/otrpresources/otrp_undergrad.html). In addition, the site lists Der Zeitgeist, an electronic journal, and Peers & Preventions, an undergraduate journal focused on peer helping and paraprofessional prevention activities. Neither of these journals was included in the present study's survey since it was felt that the former was only accessible through a computer and the latter was too focused on a specific research topic. The five periodicals selected for the present study well represented the student-based journals currently available for undergraduate psychology publications.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Joseph R. Ferrari, PhD, is associate professor of psychology, director of the Suburban Psychology Programs, and codirector of the PhD Community Psychology Program at DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Ferrari also is editor of the Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community (Haworth Press).
Dr. Ferrari received his PhD and MA in experimental (social/personality) psychology from Adelphi University, his MS in general psychology from SUNY College at Cortland, and his BA in psychology from St. Francis College, Brooklyn, New York. He began teaching in 1980 at junior and community colleges and was a visiting assistant professor before joining the faculty at DePaul in a tenure-track post in 1998.
Presently, Dr. Ferrari has over 80 scholarly publications and 110 professional conference presentations. Many articles/presentations include students as coauthors, and he has been involving students in his research since the mid-1980s. Ferrari teaches Introductory Psychology, Social Psychology, Adolescent Psychology, and History & Systems at DePaul University, as well as the graduate Teaching Seminar.
Dr Ferrari was appointed faculty advisor of the Psi Chi chapter at DePaul in the fall of 2000. He has founded and sponsored chapters of Psi Beta (at Mohawk Valley Community College, New York) and Phi Theta Kappa, national junior college honor society (Elizabeth Seton College, New York).
Stephen F. Davis, PhD, is professor of psychology at Emporia State University. In addition to his own teaching duties, he supervises 14 graduate teaching assistants who teach introductory and developmental psychology. Dr. Davis received his PhD in general experimental psychology from Texas Christian University. He taught at King College (Bristol, Tennessee), and Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, Tennessee) before joining the Emporia State faculty.
Dr. Davis's research interests include academic dishonesty, student professional development, student responsibility, conditioned taste aversion learning, and olfactory communication in animal maze learning. Since 1966 he has published over 250 articles and textbooks and presented over 800 professional papers. The vast majority of these publications and presentations include undergraduate and graduate student coauthors.
Dr. Davis has served as the president of APA Division 2 (the Society for the Teaching of Psychology), the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, the Southwestern Psychological Association, and Psi Chi (the National Honor Society in Psychology). In 1987 Dr. Davis received the first annual Psi Chi/Florence L. Denmark National Faculty Advisor Award. In 1988 he received the American Psychological Foundation Distinguished Teaching in Psychology Award, and in 1989 he received the APA Division 2 Teaching Excellence Award. Dr. Davis is a fellow of APA Divisions 1 (General), 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology), and 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology).
Authors' note. Funding for this study was made possible by a 1999-2000 Thelma Hunt Research Grant awarded to the first author by Psi Chi. Portions of this paper were presented at the 2000 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Baltimore, Maryland. The authors express gratitude to Stephanie Weyers for data entry and, along with Mark Driscoll, for mailing and handling the distribution and collection of surveys. Correspondence should be sent to the first author at the Department of Psychology, DePaul University, 2219 North Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614: e-mail: email@example.com.
Winter 2001 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 13-17), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2001, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.