Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

The Publishing JoURney

by Aya Bellaoui ’24

Every year, SMU Libraries and the Office of Engaged Learning publish the SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research (JoUR). The JoUR is a peer and faculty-reviewed journal that showcases SMU students’ exceptional research accomplishments.


The JoUR publishing process is not simple and requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. To successfully put it together, team members are each assigned a unique role. As of 2021, the team is composed of seven editors in total. Jessie Henderson, the senior editor, onboards team members and ensures the editors comprehend the publishing process. Hannah Webb, the editor-in-chief, oversees the entire production of digital and print volumes, and the general paper and peer-revision process. The editors are tasked with the responsibility of working with student authors, faculty mentors, and the reviewers, as well as editing written work and suggesting improvements. They collaborate with SMU administration to produce an annual volume of successful undergraduate research.

Faculty also plays an important role in the JoUR publishing process. Dr. Adam Neal serves as the Assistant Director for Research Programs in the Office of Engaged Learning. Dr. Neal’s responsibilities in the publishing process include managing the editors and helping the team identify eligible peer and faculty reviewers that match the field of the paper topic. Director of SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning, Jennifer Ebinger, encourages entrepreneurship and equips the team with the tools appropriate to find funding. Dr. David Son serves as both a faculty advisor and chemistry professor at SMU. His experience in academia and the publication process enables him to help the team maintain the quality of the journal.

Road to Publication

To ensure a smooth publication process, the JoUR team uses the app, Trello, to manage tasks and establish an efficient workflow. With a defined publication system, the team can maintain a rhythm and rely on the journal being released around a similar time every year.

Students can submit their papers via email or the SMU scholar website. Once the JoUR’s editorial board receives the papers, they place them through a ‘pre-review’ process in which the editors check the quality of the papers to ensure they are in appropriate format and condition for peer and faculty review. Some authors may be asked to make corrections before they can proceed in the process.

The papers are then assigned anonymous peer and faculty reviewers. Reviewers must be in the same field as that of the paper. If the team is unable to find a reviewer in a specific field, they either seek members with similar interests or branch out to other institutions. Reviewers receive about a month and a half to evaluate organization, readability, originality, presentation, and grammar. Throughout this preliminary certification, faculty evaluates whether the results of the research make sense given the analyses.

Once reviewers deem the paper worthy of publication, it is then put through the first stage of edits; authors will implement any necessary changes and corrections to their papers before entering copy-edits.

During copy-edits, JoUR editors search for readability and any remaining grammatical errors. Once the authors implement the copy-edits, the JoUR editors format and prepare the papers for publication. Finally, a vendor will then print the papers and bind them together.

According to Dr. Adam Neal, Volume 7, Issue 1 will be ready in January and Issue II in April. Editor-in-chief, Hannah Webb, states that both issues will be printed by late April or early May. SMU Libraries posts a digital version of the journal every year. All papers can be found here. Readers can also view how many times a paper has been downloaded. Samiah Woods’ paper on ketamine’s role in spirituality served to be a huge success with nearly 900 downloads since January 2021. All papers come with a unique DOI link which can, and certainly should be, included in a resume.


JoUR’s biggest challenge is funding. As a small, student-led organization, they have learned to be financially self-sufficient. Because they are not an officially chartered student organization, they are not eligible for funding by SMU’s Student Senate.

High-quality journals cost thousands of dollars, but the team confidently believes it to be a worthy investment for students, faculty, and the institution as SMU continues its efforts to become a nationally competitive research university.

For the past few years, the Journal of Undergraduate Research has been supported by SMU Libraries, the Office of Engaged Learning, Student Senate, and the Giving Day donors. Using a temporary charter, the JoUR editorial board is grateful to have been provided funding from Student Senate, but it isn’t enough. Insufficient funding is a continuous battle for the team every year. They hope to find a more permanent solution to ensure sufficient funding every year. The JoUR editorial team will continue pursuing funding through as many ventures as possible.


 The JoUR continues to grow every year. As submissions, reviews, and funding demands increase, the editorial team will need to develop new strategies to keep up. Having gone from five editors in 2020 to seven in 2021, their number of editors is on the rise, which should help with managing the JoUR’s growth. The team wishes to continue expanding and spreading awareness so that they receive more paper submissions, and more helping hands.

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