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Young Scholars in Writing Peer Review Process


As part of the application to publish articles in Young Scholars in Writing, undergraduate researchers are required to undergo a peer review process to ensure their research is a good fit for the journal. Peer reviewers come from many backgrounds, including students in writing related courses and previously published YSW authors. In total, almost 40 students from across the country served as peer reviewers for the first round of manuscript review for volume 19. Peer reviewers are asked to consider six criteria for publication: fit for YSW specifically, engagement in a conversation with writing studies scholarship, the presence of a clear focus and argument, inclusion of a clear explanation of choices or methods, logical organization, and the ability to make an impact.To find out how these peer reviewers felt about the process, we asked some of them about their experience reading and reviewing current manuscripts that were submitted for consideration

Catie Pfeiffer (she/her) first got involved with YSW via the writing center at Hofstra University. She noted that her director, Andrea Efthymiou, told her about the opportunity to be a peer reviewer at a staff meeting, which sounded interesting to her. While reading through the manuscripts she was assigned, Catie focused on “looking for current and/or cultural relevance from the research.” She read one manuscript about the COVID-19 pandemic, and another about social media use in school and the workplace. She explained, “I thought both of these topics seemed really relevant and interesting, and these were some of the main factors that I found to be important when reviewing.” After participating in the peer review process, Catie realized that undergraduate students’s work can be very impressive. She was surprised by the amount of thought and work put into each article, stating, “ I could never imagine myself being capable of putting together a 20+ page research paper like this, so I was really amazed by all of the good work that I got the opportunity to read. I also learned that maybe I am capable of writing a manuscript like these as long as I find a topic that interests me enough.” 

Megan Kelley (she/her) had her article, “Use #YouKnowMe and share your truth”: Rhetoric of Digital Abortion Storytelling, published in volume 18 of YSW. She used her prior knowledge as a YSW author to inform her peer review process, noting “I used the comments I received [while writing my article] to help guide me in how to do peer-reviewing. When reading through the manuscripts, I focused on things that I knew were important to change as well as things that would be an interesting publication.” When deciding whether or not to recommend a manuscript to be published, Megan considered a few factors. “I was looking for the topic to be new/innovative/interesting and the methods to appropriately support the topic. I was also looking to make sure that there were no glaring grammatical errors or citation errors because that indicates that the author may not have done serious editing and revision before submitting.” Looking for these elements during the peer review process can help the journal editors decide which manuscripts will be published in the next volume of YSW. Reading through submitted manuscripts can be a learning experience, Megan noted. She said, “There are a lot of talented young writers! The manuscripts I read were incredibly interesting and I was glad I got the opportunity to read them, regardless of if they are published or not.” 

Jalil Dixon (he/him) is a student at York College of Pennsylvania. During his peer review process, he focused on whether manuscript authors organized their ideas effectively. He also scanned the manuscripts for “how relevant and impactful their sources were, and how relevant the actual topic was.” He mentioned that it was important to match the topic of the manuscript to the goals of the journal, and look for “what it could bring to the next edition of YSW.” Jalil noted that participating in the peer review process helped him learn the value of the practice. He noted, “It's certainly an important aspect of the writing process because it's a chance to have your manuscript read and analyzed before it's actually released to the public. Without it, it could be very difficult to ensure that you are putting out your best work possible.” 

It’s easy to see why potential YSW authors go through the peer review process. Having other undergraduate students and previous YSW authors read submitted manuscripts allows them to give valuable feedback that not only helps the manuscript authors, but also aids the journal editors in deciding which manuscripts to move forward to be reviewed by Faculty Advisory Editors. If you would like to learn more about how undergraduate researchers publish their work in Young Scholars in Writing, click this link to read our Information for Authors web page.

Blog post by: Beck Liberatore, YSW Intern and senior at York College of PA, expected to graduate in May 2021. Liberatore has a major in Professional Writing and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies.