Advice About Undergraduate Philosophy Journals

A professor sends in a query about advising students on undergraduate philosophy journals.

She writes:

I’m considering encouraging some of my undergraduate students to develop class papers into something that could be submitted. I wonder though: In regard to the students’ experience, which undergraduate philosophy journals are best, or better than others? What is it like for students who participate in submitting (and possibly publishing) in those journals? And, is this a good use of time? Or will it just generally be as frustrating as other forms of philosophy publication submission? I’m trying to consider the possible costs or benefits to the students, who may or may not want to pursue graduate study. 

I’d like to emphasize two things about this inquiry.

One is that the professor is not asking about which undergraduate journals are better than others in regards to philosophical quality or influence (let’s not), but in regards to authors’ experiences—including things like whether the journal communicates well, makes editorial decisions in a timely manner, provides helpful editorial advice, produces a professional-looking publication, and so on. (It would especially be helpful to hear from those advising such journals, or on their editorial boards or staff, as well as authors.)

The other is that while the professor is asking whether it is a “good use of time” for a student to try to publish in an undergraduate journal, it would be a mistake to interpret this as asking just about whether having a publication in an undergraduate philosophy journal will help a student get into a philosophy graduate program—I would think it by itself almost never does. I would urge people to instead consider the other ways that publishing in an undergraduate journal might be valuable, such as it being practice for getting up the nerve to go through the process of submitting one’s own work to scrutiny by others, or overcoming work-shyness to publicly share one’s writing in a publication, or getting some practice with taking criticism well and revising in response to editors or reviewers, and so on.

Let me also remind readers of the Undergraduate Philosophy Journal Database.

Comments sharing your thoughts and experiences are welcome.


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2 years ago

When I was a student, I was part of the editorial team at Logos, the Cornell undergraduate philosophy journal. This was a long time ago now, but I recall the process being fair and thorough. One of the great things is that the submissions are awarded cash prizes. The best paper in the annual issue is given $300 (the amounts may have changed), and there are also cash prizes for 2nd and 3rd place. I remember the quality of the papers being submitted being very high. In any case, the possibility of winning a cash prize may be an incentive for students to try and submit something. I can’t speak to the journal today, unfortunately.

Gareth Pearce
2 years ago

I published a fair bit in undergrad journals as an undergrad and am really glad that I did. I got rejected by some and I got accepted by others. I was lucky enough to be invited to a couple of UG conferences to present my work. The experience familiarised me with the process of submitting to a conference, gave me opportunities to meet and speak to philosophers from outside my usual network and also taught me about handling rejection in academia.

It also helped with my applications for MA programs. I doubt that the publications did much for my CV (I’m sure they did something, but just not much! Happy to be corrected on this by people who have sat on admissions panels for top grad programs) but they gave me the confidence to apply for more competitive programs, some of which I got accepted on to.

I also really enjoyed the more extended process of taking a seminar paper and using the feedback I’d got from the lecturer to make something better, that I would then submit. Getting used to that process is essential for later academic life and knowing that revising my work is something I enjoy made me more sure that academia was a career I wanted to pursue.

Submissions to UG journals probably isn’t essential (and shouldn’t be) but for me it was a really useful and positive experience that I highly recommend to keen undergrads.

As for good journals: the landscape changes very quickly. Journals often pop up, run for a few years, then go. Most are student run, so you can see why there would be these fluctuations. In the UK, the British Journal of Undergraduate Philosophy (BJUP) was the “big” one when I was a UG. I think it’s still running but now under a different name? I think maybe the Undergraduate Review? My alma mater, York, also runs a UG journal called Dialectic which is decent. When I was a UG I also published in Sheffield’s journal, but I don’t know if that’s still running. Generally, I’d look for UG journals run by either (a) recognisable associations or (b) in connection with universities with reasonable philosophy departments. My first UG publication was just with some other unaligned website that wanted to run a UG journal. That’s the only one that I don’t feel I got much out of (other than maybe a mini confidence boost!). If it’s a journal with a conference attached, that’s probably a good thing as well.

Is it as frustrating as other submissions? In my experience, no. If you have a paper that’s a decent 1st, you can probably get it published first try in a UG journal. It’s really more like submitting to a conference than to a professional journal.

TLDR: I really recommend keen UGs submitting to UG journals. It gives them practice in doing important parts of academic work, gives them a chance to go to cool events and meet new people, and can also act as a confidence boost.

Reply to  Gareth Pearce
2 years ago

The journal at Sheffield seems to be running still:

2 years ago

I’m about to graduate, and I have experience submitting to several undergraduate philosophy journals. My best experiences have been with the Mudd Journal of Ethics at Washington & Lee. Students who get into the journal are simultaneously accepted for their annual ethics conference, and when I went it was very nice. I got great feedback from professors and students, and it was a lot of fun. They also paid for my travel, housing, and food during the trip, and they make attractive print copies of the journal.

I had one good experience with Dialogue: The Journal of Phi Sigma Tau, and one bad experience. The first time I submitted, they accepted my paper and sent me ten(!) print copies of the journal. It felt very professional at the time. The next time I submitted, I received an email saying that there were delays due to covid (totally reasonable), but then I never heard from them again, even though I followed up twice after a few months had passed. Other than that, every journal I’ve applied to has been pretty good about sending decisions in a timely manner.

I would also like to plug my own university’s undergraduate journal, which we just started this year. William & Mary’s Structure accepts papers on all topics in metaphysics, where metaphysics is defined broadly enough to include any philosophical work that focuses on being and structure. (For example, we just accepted one paper about racist social structures alongside papers on grounding and modality.) Unfortunately, we did not have funds for a print issue this year, but we will probably become eligible for funding in the future. We sent all decisions within five weeks of the deadline, which is faster than usual in my experience as an applicant. We spent a lot of time trying to make our rejection letter gentle so that it would not needlessly discourage students, and I also sent detailed feedback to two students who asked. Our next deadline will probably be in February 2022, but we’ll consider any work submitted to structure.philosophy [at] gmail between now and then.

Reply to  Jake
2 years ago

William & Mary also has an annual undergraduate conference, and the deadline for this year is 3/21. We typically have 6-8 undergraduate presenters and one keynote address. Before covid, we were able to offer cash prizes to the top two papers, so hopefully that will resume after the crisis. We weren’t able to fund travel, but since the coming conference will be on Zoom, it would be a good time to apply even if you couldn’t ordinarily make it out.

Graham Hubbs
2 years ago

Taking things in a slightly different direction: I am the faculty advisor for our undergrad journal at the University of Idaho, The Hemlock, and from what I’ve seen our students’ experience running the journal has been immensely rich and rewarding. They take their editing and refereeing work very seriously. In ways, their job is harder than standard academic editorial work, because their deadlines are real–they have to have the journal ready for release before the academic year is over. They learn all sorts of organizational skills that go well beyond the material they are reading and critiquing. The pedagogical value is great. So, regarding the “good use of time” question, I think it is a great use of the editors and referees time to produce a journal…and they can’t do that if they don’t get submissions!

Isaac Shur
Isaac Shur
2 years ago

I published in a couple undergraduate journals based on the following advice from some helpful professors:

  1. Don’t sacrifice time you could spend working on your writing sample for the sake of publishing. (My own work around on this was to submit my writing sample to journals, which was also a great way to get additional feedback on it, and to submit papers I’d already done for class.)
  2. Having undergraduate publications is not a huge advantage for graduate applications but it can be the sort of thing which sets one apart from otherwise similar candidates. I.e. if two candidates both have great samples, letters, etc. the candidate with a publication or two might have a slight edge. But, publications are not something which can make up for weaker core components of an application.
  3. The main reason for an undergrad to publish is the one you allude to: it’s just good practice for what they’ll later have to do in an academic career. I certainly found that to be the case in terms of navigating the submission and feedback process as well as sharing my work publicly.

The journals I published in were Aporia (St. Andrews) and Ephemeris. Both were great in terms of editorial advice, communication, and professional presentation, especially Ephemeris.

2 years ago

I published in an undergrad journal and helped edit one as an undergrad. I enjoyed the experience and found it interesting work. I learned some things, too. But speaking as undergrad-me, the best part was just that I liked doing it.

Max DuBoff
2 years ago

Current grad student here. I had an article in Logos (Cornell) when I was an undergrad, and it was a positive experience. I submitted junior year, so it was my first time trying to further polish something I had written for a course. Agreed with previous commenters that, for those applying to grad school, it’s important not to take away from working on the writing sample; that’s why junior year seems to be a generally good time for undergrad journals/conferences (though other times can work well too, depending on the case). Not sure it matters so much which to submit to, insofar as the goal of practicing developing ideas depends little on the journal/conference’s response, but going with more well-established ones, which have more put-together sites and CfPs and whatnot, seems like a good rule of thumb.

Elizabeth Foxwell
2 years ago

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) has an online catalog with links to undergraduate research journals, including philosophy journals.