Tag: history

Editing an open access student research journal

Editing an open access student research journal

Paul Ward is Professor of Modern British History and Head of the Department of History, English, Languages and Media at the University of Huddersfield. He is also the current Editor of Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past – our postgraduate research journal based in the History department. As part of #OAWeek we invited Paul to talk to us about his experiences of publishing a student-focused open access journal.

Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past is a journal run from the research-intensive history department at the University of Huddersfield. With about 10 staff, 20 PhD students and 20 MA by research students, we are quite a large research community. Staff publish their research in a number of journals and we wanted a way to introduce our research students to the world of academic publishing. Each year we have a postgraduate conference, including many speakers from other universities. To develop the academic employability of speakers we decided to encourage them to submit their revised conference papers to the journal, which is then normally published once a year.

Many people have horror stories about the academic peer process – anonymous comments from academics to whom the editor of the journal send a submitted article. Some peer reviews are simply unacceptable, but many others are emotionally bruising and undermine confidence – and worse, since mental health issues are increasingly common in academia ruled by league tables and precarious employment.

A supportive publishing process

We wanted our journal to be different. Essays in PPP are published after a supportive peer review process, in which an established academic and a PhD student each comment on the submissions, returning them to the authors for revisions as appropriate. They then go for a second round of peer review, to academics at universities across the UK, in order to guide the authors through the stages of the journal publication process. At each step, the editorial team encouraged positivity alongside rigour to ensure that the essays are of high quality and suggestions for change are made with the feelings of the authors in mind.

There seems to me to be nothing unusual about this way of working, yet it was picked up by Times Higher Education as a (brief) story, who thought keeping authors’ feelings in mind was newsworthy.

For a long time, academia believed in the invisibility of the author as corollary to the belief in ‘objectivity’. In fact, it often led to exclusivity and, in anonymous peer review, to a lack of sensitivity to the humanity of the author. A more supportive approach fits with the mood of the digital doctoral age. Social media and digital technologies connect PhD students in ways that were unimaginable to previous generations. It enables them to publish the results of their research easily and readily, but it also provides support networks so that what they publish is often well developed, well thought out, and results from collaborative effort.

Dealing with rejection

We have faced some problems, one of which is that the encouragement to publish has led to some authors submitting articles too early on in their learning and researching. The advantage of peer review is that it provides quality assurance against under-researched and under-analysed ideas and interpretations. Like all difficult tasks, writing for an academic journal is challenging. We have rejected a couple of articles, even after the peer review process. And some authors have not made the revisions that peer reviewers have suggested, possibly because the scale of the task has seemed to great alongside completing a Masters by research or PhD thesis.

Nonetheless, publishing PPP has been very valuable. We have had an enormous range of articles, covering medieval jousting, female combatants in contemporary Colombia, army reform in Edwardian Britain, terraced housing, psychiatry in imperial India and witchcraft in early modern England. It enables potential authors to dip their toes in the water of academic publishing and, hopefully, also encourages them to be supportive of other academics as they progress in their future careers.

Read all issues of Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past online, open access.

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Author spotlight: how did gender expectations affect medieval England?

Author spotlight: how did gender expectations affect medieval England?

History student Katie McAdam has recently published an article about her research in our student research journal Fields. We caught up with her for a chat about her work and her experiences getting published.

Give us a quick overview of your research area

My area of research has focused on societal gender norms surrounding masculinity and kingship in medieval England. By examining the downfall, death and conspiratorial narratives surrounding Edward II, my article analyses the way in which his failure to meet contemporary gender expectations ultimately doomed his reign, and were to shape the memory of his life and reign. The two areas of masculinity and kingship have been consistently linked throughout the historiography, with Edward often being remembered as a homosexual monarch, even as a gay icon, and his leadership failures are continuously linked with his perceived failings as the ideal medieval male. After Edward II’s death, a letter was written by a notable cleric, Manuel Fieschi, claiming the king was still alive and living out his days secretly as a devout hermit in Italy. My article then goes on to analyse the prevalent trope of secret survival which is associated with many famous deaths throughout history, such as Elvis Presley and Princess Diana and examines why this phenomenon of believing the dead are living on in secret occurs so frequently in history.

How did you find the process of publication? Did it help you to develop as a researcher?

The experience of becoming a first time author has been both exciting and eye-opening for me and has most certainly developed me academically in a number of different ways. I feel my ongoing studies have vastly improved due to the new level of scrutiny I can impose on my own writing and content after working with the Fields team so closely to re-draft and improve my work throughout the past year. Attention to detail was never a strength of mine, but this experience demanded a high level of this skill and so I can now apply this both academically and professionally to my other projects. Overall I also have a much greater appreciation for the level of work that goes into having work published, and as a result feel I hold myself to a much higher standard than before I got involved with the process, which is certainly paying off in other areas such as my grades and feedback.

I have really enjoyed the experience and the process, especially the dedicated workshop day where I could discuss research areas with other writers and learn from each other, and my involvement has definitely made me keen to strive to do similar things in the future.

Read Katie’s article in Volume 3 of Fields

The Making of a University – book review

The Making of a University – book review

We are pleased to bring you this great review from John Hargreaves.

Dr John A. Hargreaves graduated from the University of Southampton and has taught in secondary, higher and adult education in West Yorkshire. He completed his MA and PhD as a part-time student at Huddersfield where he is currently a Visiting Research Fellow in History. He gave the Annual J.H. Whitley Lecture for the University at Halifax Town Hall in 2015.

John O’Connell, The Making of a University. The Path to Higher Education in Huddersfield, University of Huddersfield Press, 2016 ISBN 978-1-86218-054-3

John O’Connell’s eminently readable and characteristically trenchant survey of the foundations and development of the precursor institutions which became the University of Huddersfield from 1992 is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how Huddersfield ultimately acquired such a prestigious centre of higher education and how its distinctive ethos and commitment to serving the needs of the local as well as a global community developed during its formative years from the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. This development encompassed among other bodies a mechanics’ institution, a female educational institute, a college of technology and a polytechnic, each phase of which is analysed within the context of wider educational change and the more localised factors shaping the development of Huddersfield and the emergence of Kirklees during a period of spectacular expansion rising from an average annual increase in its higher-education student numbers from about four per cent to sixteen per cent in 1991-2.

The author, a former secondary school teacher who became Head of the Department of History and Political Studies at Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1972 and Head of the Department of Humanities and Dean of the Faculty of Arts with the designation of professor from 1984 meticulously researched the book in his retirement from 1989, assisted by former colleagues, particularly Professor Brendan Evans. The late Professor O’Connell contends that whilst in one sense the University of Huddersfield can be termed a post-1992 university, such a description fails to do justice to the historic roots ‘ranking the university alongside civic universities with more easily recognised older traditions’ so vividly evoked in the authoritative text. Moreover, this is enhanced by an abundance of carefully selected, relevant images, many in colour, illustrating landmarks in the remodelling of the accommodation for learning from nineteenth-century gothic to the more angular twentieth-century styles. In addition, there is also a gallery of predominantly bearded and whiskered Victorian educational pioneers such as Frederic Schwann, Edmund Eastwood, G.D. Tomlinson, Frank Curzon and George Jarmain, though not the redoubtable George Searle Phillips, who O’Connell considers even more influential than the prosperous exporter and bibliophile Schwann during this period. They appear together with a host of later national figures including both Margaret Thatcher, who performed the designation ceremony for the Polytechnic on 23 April 1971, Anthony Crosland, who announced the inclusion of Huddersfield amongst his confirmed list of polytechnics on 5 April 1967 and no fewer than three photographs of Harold Wilson, a frequent visitor to the expanding institution over the years, whose association with the University continues through an annual lecture series.

You can order your copy by visiting our online store, and if you are a staff member, student or alumni of the University you can also enjoy an impressive 50% discount.