Looking to succeed? Understanding the importance of research publications

Understanding the importance of research publications

Are you working on a research project? Odds are you are currently involved with a research project or have been in the past. Psychology majors typically have a distinct advantage over other majors in undergraduate research, as our field has a rich and proud tradition of involving students. However, it is important to note that undergraduate research extends beyond our discipline. For example, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) states undergraduate research occurs when a student conducts an investigation that makes an original contribution to the discipline. Additionally, CUR has identified many benefits to participating in undergraduate research including enhanced student learning, increased retention, increased enrollment in graduate education and effective career preparation (2011).

The final step in the research process is disseminating the work. Typically, students fulfill this step by presenting at local, regional or national conferences. Although these activities are important, the purpose of this article is to encourage undergraduate students to also consider disseminating the work by publishing their findings in academic journals. Yes, you read that sentence correctly: It is possible to conduct research as a student and have it published before you earn your degree. In the opening paragraph, we mentioned some of the benefits of conducting research. However, there are additional benefits to having a manuscript published because the publishing process aids in developing key skills. For example, the publication process refines writing skills (Lawson & Smith, 1996; Peden, 1991) and gives you the opportunity to learn from constructive feedback provided by reviewers. A published manuscript is also seen as evidence of your abilities in methodology as well as data collection and analyses (Brownlow, 1997). These are the key skills that graduate programs look for in applicants.

Even if you are not interested in graduate school immediately upon graduation, the publication process develops skills valued by future employers. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed hiring managers and asked them to indicate what skills they desired in 2015 graduates. The top five skills included the ability to: work in teams; make decisions; communicate with others; plan, organize and prioritize work; and obtain and process information (Adams, 2014). These recent findings mirror results shared by the Association of American Colleges and Universities on the topic of preparing college students to succeed in a global economy (Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 2007). Thus, the bottom line is that publishing a manuscript helps develop desired skills whether you plan to apply to graduate school immediately or enter the workforce.

If you are interested in submitting a manuscript for publication in a journal, there are a few simple things that can aid you in the process. First, you will want to ensure the manuscript adheres to APA style (2010). Pay careful attention to details such as formatting of headers, in-text citations, spacing and other style mechanics. Second, you can improve the quality of your manuscript by checking the appropriate use of punctuation, grammar and spelling and by avoiding run-on sentences. Although this sounds like a no-brainer, it is always best to double check for these issues before submitting. Simply improving the quality of your manuscript prior to submission will likely decrease the number of revisions required by reviewers and possibly even increase the likelihood of your manuscript being accepted for publication.

When considering submitting an article for publication, it is always recommended you get support from a faculty sponsor. Your faculty sponsor will likely read the manuscript and make suggestions for improvement prior to your submitting it. When you both believe the manuscript is ready to be submitted, you will find many journals in the field specifically looking for submissions from undergraduate students and their faculty sponsors. Remember, you should only submit the manuscript to one journal at a time for consideration.

Following is a list of journals that encourage submissions from undergraduate student authors. For additional information, see Ware and Burns (2008).

  • Journal of Psychological Inquiry
    JPI accepts undergraduate manuscript submissions exclusively in the following categories: empirical, literature review, historical or theoretical review and special feature. Faculty members from a variety of institutions review submitted manuscripts. Managing editors: Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, PhD, and John Raacke, PhD.
  • Undergraduate Journal of Psychology
    UJP accepts undergraduate empirical or literature review manuscript submissions from around the world. One student reviewer and one expert reviewer are assigned to each manuscript. Managing editors: Sara Levens, PhD, and Melissa Medaugh.
  • Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research
    Psi Chi allows undergraduate, graduate and faculty first authors to submit manuscripts of empirical studies. Faculty members are assigned to review the manuscript submissions. Managing editor: Warren Jones, PhD.
  • Undergraduate Research Journal of Psychology at UCLA
    URJP accepts undergraduate submissions of editorials, research articles and UCLA professor bibliographies. Undergraduate and graduate students are assigned to review submitted manuscripts. Editor-in-chief: Lauren Wong.
  • Modern Psychological Studies
    MPS accepts undergraduate experimental research, literature reviews, theoretical papers and book reviews. Undergraduate students review submitted manuscripts. Faculty sponsor: David Ross, PhD.
  • Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences
    JPBS allows undergraduates, graduates and faculty to submit empirical studies and literature reviews. Undergraduate and graduate student officers of JPBS review manuscripts. Managing editor: Robert Griffo, PhD.

Re-posted with permission from APA’s Psychology Student Network


Adam, S. (2014, November 12). The 10 skills employers most want in 2015 graduates.

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.

Brownlow, S. (1997). Going the extra mile: The rewards of publishing your undergraduate research. Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, 2, 83-85.

Council on Undergraduate Research. (2011). Fact sheet.

Lawson, T. J., & Smith, R. A. (1996). Formatting APA pages in WordPerfect: An update. Teaching of Psychology, 23(2), 56-58. doi: 10.1207/s15328023top2301_16

Peden, B. F. (1991). Teaching the importance of accuracy in preparing references. Teaching of Psychology, 18(2), 102-105. doi: 10.1207/s15328023top1802_10

Peter D. Hart Research Associates. (2007). How should colleges prepare students to succeed in today’s global economy?

Ware, E. M., & Burns, S. R. (2008). Undergraduate student research journals: Opportunities for and benefits from publication. In R. L. Miller, R. F. Rycek, E. Balcetis, S. T. Barney, B. C. Beins, S. R. Burns, R. Smith, & M. E. Ware (Eds.), Developing, promoting, & sustaining the undergraduate research experience in psychology (253-256).

About the Author

LaNaya Anderson is a graduate student studying clinical psychology at Fort Hays State University. In addition to her studies, Anderson works as the graduate assistant for the Journal of Psychological Inquiry. Her primary research interests include eating disorder etiology and treatment and stress management. Anderson obtained her BA from Winona State University. After recently marrying, Anderson has enjoyed settling into a new home in Kansas.
Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, PhD, is the chair and associate professor of psychology at Fort Hays State University. Her primary research interests are the psychology of mass communication and decision-making and the psychology of teaching. Prior to joining the faculty at FHSU, Bonds-Raacke served as the associate dean of the Maynor Honors College and as a faculty teaching fellow for the Teaching and Learning Center at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She has also been an assistant professor and faculty advisor of the Honors Program at Briar Cliff University. Bonds-Raacke earned her PhD and MS from Kansas State University in experimental psychology and her BA from Christian Brothers University. She has been happily married to John Raacke, PhD, for more than 15 years, and they have two daughters, Callie and Brooke.
John Raacke, PhD, is currently chair and associate professor in the department of justice studies at Fort Hays State University. His primary research interests are juror/jury decision-making, team decision-making and the impact of social networking sites. Prior to joining the faculty at FHSU, Raacke served as the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, an academic affairs administrative fellow and chair of the Internal Review Board at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Raacke earned his PhD and MS from Kansas State University in experimental psychology and his BA from Christian Brothers University. Raacke is originally from southern Louisiana and enjoys cooking Cajun food for his family.