By Kathrine Kallehauge, BA International Relations
SOAS has published its first Undergraduate Research Journal. The Journal is one of few in the UK that publishes research by an undergraduate body.
The Research Journal is produced ‘for students, by students’. The Editors explain that it embraces the diverse, thought-provoking research conducted at SOAS.
Leadership of the journal’s development came from Ben Mason, SOAS Learning & Teaching Project Manager, and former Anthropology MA student.
As a student, he observed how following deadlines and subsequent marking, essays often gathered ‘electronic dust’ on SOAS students’ computers without them having vehicle for wider readership.
Essays often gathered ‘electronic dust’ on students’ computers without them having vehicle for wider readership.
Mason wanted to fill this gap, and championed this project.He congregated undergraduates into an editorial team, supported by an advisory board of academics and members of professional services, who would assess nearly 100 submissions, and select eight outstanding research essays.
Staff at the Bulletin of SOAS, a research journal for the study of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, have expressed excitement for the project. Its Editor-in-Chief, Dr Ayman Shihadeh, considers it a ‘welcoming initiative’. He described the Journal as a platform presenting ‘some of the outstanding work produced by undergraduate students’ that has future potential and various opportunities to grow.
The vision is ambitious. Ada Özenci, Co-Editor, envisions that the Journal will become a product of SOAS, showcasing independent research and active engagement with scholarship. Yet, the vision extends beyond conventional expectations of academic journals. Özenci aspires to create a ‘proactive platform’ for students, incentivising global networks – they have already established contact with a Rwandan journal – which can be utilised for undergraduates’ future professional endeavours.
Orthodox journals are often stereotyped as something elitist, only accessible for academics or postgraduates alike, Özenci says. They want to challenge that conviction. She claims that today ‘young people have so much to say, and are often not being taken seriously.’ Instead, they envision a platform branching out to different facets of research including art, podcasts, and videos. The Journal aspires to be a unique forum that offers exceptional essays, and seeks to convey research in a new way, Özenci told the Spirit.
Hisham Pryce-Parchment, a member of the Editorial Board, particularly dismissed the idea of the Undergraduate Journal becoming a static, fixed product.
Pryce-Parchment also detailed his aim to bridge the BAME attainment gap. He told the Spirit that the Journal aims to incorporate BAME voices, not simply making the content racially conscious, but to ensure that BAME voices are present in the Journal.
The Undergraduate Research Journal also aspires to be politically current and relevant. Parchment described a need for undergraduates to incentivise intellectual dialogue, discussing current affairs, in order to push research further.
The Journal is now planning its second issue. Their criteria for submissions have remained simple, and they hope to see continued enthusiasm. Moving onwards, Mason appears to see no limits, few challenges, but multiple benefits. Mason hopes that the second issue will continue to be a platform supporting undergraduate research, creating opportunities, and showing that students’ work is valued.
The Journal’s next challenge will be to ‘maintain momentum,’ Elizabeth Grant told the Spirit. But Grant, the Bulletin of SOAS’s Editorial Officer, wanted to ‘wish its editors every success.’
The undergraduate editors hope to gain momentum after the publication of their second issue this summer. The Board believes that it can achieve this goal by remaining ‘accessible, transparent, and proactive’ in the School’s research.
The first issue was launched on 19 February and comprises eight research pieces by former and current students. The disciplines vary from International Relations and Law, to Anthropology and Arabic studies, journeying through key themes across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.