So You’re an Undergraduate and You Want to Get Published

If you are thinking of pursing a career in academia or as a writer in general, you might want to attempt to submit your research to a peer reviewed journal. You may find this intimidating (like I did at first), but it shouldn’t be too scary if you have read about submitting.

Start at home

For your first time, I would suggest to go local. See if your department has an undergraduate journal. I was able to get published in my own department the first time. If your department doesn’t have a journal, then here is a good list to choose from. - “The Writer” by Brian Stetson

“The Writer” by Brian Stetson. My anthropology department accepts papers from students outside of our university. So even if you don’t attend say, Caltech, they still accept undergraduate submissions from around the world. This will allow you the experience of peer review without the added pressure that comes along with larger journals.

About your paper

Here are some questions to consider before submitting your research to a journal.

Is it good? Knowing that views of our own work are subjective and are vulnerable to bias, I suggest having a colleague (or two) or professor take a look at it to give you feedback. Some people make really bad movies but think that they are really good. As a consequence, the people from MST3K have made a career out of riffing on those bad films. Don’t worry, you won’t be mocked for your research, unless you make such a bad mistake it goes viral.

Is it timely? As an undergrad, we don’t have as much clout in the academic world as grad students or PhD’s. If you want to get published, make sure your research is relevant. I have no doubt that one of the main reasons my Mars colonization paper was published was because of all the recent media coverage on Mars One.

Future research? Include in your paper ideas for future research, academia loves that.

Choosing a Journal

“Elsevier” by Isaac Elzevir

If you plan to submit your research to a non-undergraduate journal, do some research on the aims of the journal. My research focused on protecting humans in space, therefore when I found out Acta Astronautica’s aim was for the “peaceful scientific exploration of space and its exploitation for human welfare and progress,” I thought it would be a perfect fit. Additionally, if you are into geek culture such as the team at The Geek Anthropologist, you may want to check out The Journal of Geek Studies.

I would also suggest finding a “mid-level” journal. As an undergrad, I wouldn’t attempt to get your paper published in Cell or Annual Review of Immunology, simply because of their rankings and impact factor. My guess is that the less competition you have then the better your chances are of getting chosen.


If you are an undergrad who has taken different courses outside of your major, then you will know the pain of all the different citation and referencing systems. Is it APA? MLA? AAA? Chicago? These can be both frustrating and confusing. If you know before you write your paper that you may want to submit it to a journal in the future, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask your professor if you could write it in the format of the journal in order to prevent having to change it later. Some journals suggest you format your paper in their style. Admittedly, I did not do this and still got accepted anyways. This goes to show that some of the tips are not set in stone, but going forward, I would format any future submissions as the journal says.

“Just an undergrad”

shake shake shake

“Shake Shake Shake” by Tifotter

There seems to be some controversy around undergraduate publishing, with the argument being that if it is good research, it should be in a non-undergraduate journal. I tried to submit my already published peer reviewed paper to the Social Science Research Network and got a reply back that said, “we don’t accept undergraduate research.” My interpretation of the message was that  simply because I was an undergrad, my research was not good enough for them. Like a good Taylor Swift song, I shook it off, but kept in mind the rejection. Unfortunately, there seems to be a type of “ageist” or “degree-ist” stigma from people, which I’m hoping will change over time.

If after all is said and done, and you think that your research isn’t up to par, then attempt to submit a review instead. The commitment isn’t as hardcore if you were submitting original research and you still have the potential for publication. Go forth and prosper undergrads!

About raynaelizabeth

My name is Rayna and I am currently an M.Ed. Candidate at York University and my background includes knowledge in the fields of Anthropology and Psychology. My research interests include death studies, human factors in space, homelessness, poverty, stigma, ethics, and science and technology studies.

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