Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring
In 2010, Elon University approved the creation of a new online, undergraduate research journal. Named Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (PURM), it has a unique focus on the processes of undergraduate research and mentoring relationships rather than the products of such research. One of my PWR professors, who is the journal’s managing editor, invited me to join the small staff as the editorial assistant. In this position, one of my responsibilities is to go through accepted articles and edit them according to the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide, PURM’s in-house style guide, and general rules of English grammar and punctuation.
Several professional writing and rhetorical concerns shaped my editing process for PURM’s inaugural issue, which launched on October 14, 2011. For starters, working with PURM introduced me to a different editing situation in which I had no previous experience, despite my editing experience with a newspaper and newsletter. I found that the organizational situation of a scholarly journal is far different from that of a student-run newspaper organization or a department-specific newsletter created by a group of three students. For example, I had less freedom as an editor for PURM to rewrite entire sentences, much less entire paragraphs of text, which was a liberty I’d been given in the other two organizations.
The stricter editing guidelines for the journal were informed by the organization’s need to respect and maintain each contributor’s ethos as the published author. The articles published in PURM represent the writers’ own research and experiences, and the manner in which they choose to present that information is a reflection of their own authority as a professional. I was quick to realize it is not my place as the copy editor to change anything in the text that may alter or tamper with that ethos. At the same time, I also knew I couldn’t let slide anything that didn’t fit the stylistic parameters or larger goals of PURM, so I had to be careful to maintain the balance between each author’s ethos and the journal’s own ethos.
Editing for PURM was also a collaborative experience for me. Both the managing editor and I were responsible for making sure accepted articles achieved the journal’s standards for organization of ideas, clarity, grammar, etc. We frequently met to compare notes on the editing suggestions we had and decide collaboratively what the most significant editorial concerns were in each article. From there, we would determine whether to contact the writer(s) about making substantial changes or move forward with the line-editing process.
My editing experience for PURM’s inaugural issue was far different from my experiences with other organizations. I had to rein in my editorial zeal to an extent that had not been required of me before: even at the student newspaper, copy editors were allowed to restructure a reporter’s article or alter sentence structure as they saw fit. The organizational situation of PURM placed specific parameters on my role as a copy editor, and I adapted to those in order to approach the editing process in both an effective and organization-appropriate manner.