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Promoting undergraduate research culture –

The ANU Undergraduate Research Journal

Academic research begins at the undergraduate level, and nurturing a culture of undergraduate research publication is important. As a course convener, you can contribute to building undergraduate research culture through spotting and nurturing talent, prompting high-achieving students to pursue publishing opportunities, and creating assessments that simulate and scaffold writing for a wide readership. 

One avenue for your students to explore is submitting their work to student journals, such as ANU Undergraduate Research Journal (AURJ). The AURJ is currently steered by ANU Academic Skills and is proud to create opportunities for students to publish academic research and experience the publishing process from several vantage points. The latest edition showcases exemplary undergraduate essays on topics as varied as German resistance to the Third Reich, the gender politics of Snow White, climate change refugees, #MeToo, and Indigenous Australian child wellbeing.

The AURJ offers several avenues for your students to experience and gain valuable insights into the publishing process:


ANU undergraduates can submit for consideration any paper that received a High Distinction. If shortlisted, the paper undergoes further peer review, with authors receiving feedback to develop their work from course-specific academic essay into an article for a wider interdisciplinary audience. Eleanor Armstrong, a Bachelor of Philosophy (Hons) and Diploma of Languages graduate, recalls that the process “made sharing my work with broader audiences … seem more accessible, enabling me to pursue further opportunities.” Brianna Muir, a Hons graduate from the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, likewise found the experience “very rewarding and informative”.

Potential authors

The number of submissions is high (vol. 11 received 200 papers!), hence shortlisting can be challenging and many exemplary papers do not make the final cut. Often those papers are worthy of publication elsewhere, and the editors are happy to provide feedback to help students refine their work for another outlet.  

Peer reviewers

Published authors are invited to become peer reviewers on the next volume of the journal. Peer reviewers receive a handful of papers for initial review, and their comments help the editors curate the final shortlist. If one of their papers is shortlisted, the reviewer is invited to provide further editorial feedback on that paper. 

Eleanor and Brianna, both published in vol. 10, contributed to vol. 11 as peer reviewers. Eleanor found the process illuminating, saying “being part of the publication as both a contributor and a peer editor ensured I was able to acquire insight into both ends of the process”, and describes her AURJ participation overall as “a fundamental part of my later university experience.” Brianna found peer reviewing similarly instructive, noting “as a reviewer, I got to see the process from the other side, and acquired skills in editing and critically evaluating.”


The journal’s cover art draws from the School of Art Graduating Exhibition. The current volume’s cover artwork by Bachelor of Visual Arts graduate Greta Cooper depicts the post-bushfire regrowth of bushland around Moruya NSW: an apt image of rebirth and new beginnings following the bushfires of 2019–2020 and the current global pandemic.

Postgraduates can participate too! – Co-editors 

While the journal targets undergraduate authors, a postgraduate serves as co-editor. This involves reviewing and shortlisting submissions, corresponding with authors and reviewers, and providing critical feedback, and affords postgraduates closer insight into academic publishing, in turn informing their own research. Dr Daniel May, who completed his PhD in 2020, found co-editing vol. 10 “eye-opening to see just how much academic publishing relies upon the goodwill and volunteer labour of those involved. Thankfully our authors and reviewers were a joy to work with!” Current postgraduate Louisa Talipski co-edited vol. 11 and described it as “an invaluable experience on many fronts … I’d only ever been on the ‘author’ side of that process, so that shift in perspective made for an interesting learning experience.” 

So, if you have any students in your class who have written an outstanding essay, consider giving them a little nudge and encourage them to submit their work to journals such as the ANU Undergraduate Research Journal. If you have any questions about the journal, please contact ANU Academic Skills at academicskills@anu.edu.au.  

June 2021

Dr Benjamin Kooyman is a Learning Adviser at ANU Academic Skills.