Helping high school researchers get published

UAlberta teams up with Strathcona High School to produce peer-reviewed journal.


(Edmonton) Alexandra Martin has been working for months on the question of whether the United Nations Security Council is successful at intervening in civil wars—a heavy topic for a Grade 12 student.

So it will be a fine day come this fall, when Martin, 17, and her Strathcona High School classmates, as budding researchers, post their findings on the University of Alberta’s journal publishing platform—believed to be the first time a university library in Canada has partnered with a high school to publish a peer-reviewed journal.

The publication will have a home on the University of Alberta Libraries’ open journal hosting service, an electronic platform that already hosts 29 peer-reviewed academic journals related to U of A research or faculty.

“It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity to see my work being published and it’s a nice payoff at the end of all this work to have something to show for it,” said Martin, who has applied to the U of A to study medicine. In the course of her project, she interviewed a few U of A professors and wrote a paper—skills she knows will be handy when starting post-secondary classes.

“I learned how to get my own sources and how to conduct an interview. That’s going to be helpful when I have to balance research work on top of my course load.”

Hosting the high school journal—and hopefully others like it—is key to the U of A Libraries mandate, said Gerald Beasley, vice-provost and chief librarian for the U of A.

“This is part of what libraries do, the same as lending books,” he said. “U of A Libraries is committed to disseminating new knowledge, and this project with Strathcona High School is an opportunity to take community knowledge and make it more widely available.”

The project also opens the way for other high schools and community groups in Alberta that don’t happen to be affiliated with the U of A to have similar materials published on the university’s open access journal system, Beasley said.

“We are proud to have established this publishing platform, and we are opening it up to any community group in Alberta.”

The results can be accessed by any curious member of the public who wants to browse research findings and learn the latest about different topics, he noted.

Extending the free service to the community is an important part of the university libraries’ commitment to the U of A’s promise of uplifting the whole people, Beasley added.

“Open access to information for all is important; it’s not behind a pay wall. Over the last decade there’s been huge growth in open academic research and we believe that is important, because it touches all people—clinicians, those in the business field, taxpayers.”

The Strathcona High School journal, tentatively named The Cornerstone, will be peer-reviewed as other online academic journals are, and will feature findings based on analysis and research conducted by Grade 11 and 12 students through the school’s new Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma program.

The students learn to analyze source documents such as academic journal articles and media stories, evaluate arguments and conduct independent research that results in the writing of “mini-theses,” said Greg Henkelman, AP curriculum co-ordinator and AP Capstone co-ordinator at Strathcona High School.

The first issue, with topics ranging from the mental benefits of Matcha tea to Quebec policy on religious garb, publishes this fall, with plans to produce it on a twice-yearly or quarterly basis.

For his students, the collaboration between the school and U of A Libraries is a meaningful academic stepping stone, Henkelman said.

”Being published in a peer-edited journal, taking that work and sharing it with a broader audience is a strong reward for students,” he added. “It’s nice to have a library system that is willing to support our students in exposing their work, and we are grateful to the U of A for that.”