Master’s students create Graduate Journal: ‘It represents the development we’ve achieved’
A celebration was held in the Tabú restaurant: Mark Rutgers, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, was presented with the first copy of LEAP, a journal where Humanities master’s students can prepare for an academic career by publishing articles themselves.
Link between education and research
The project was initiated by lecturers Astrid van Weyenberg and Nanne Timmer, who set up the Leiden Graduate Journal master’s course. For this course, ten students wrote about the topic ‘crisis’ and put their findings together in LEAP: Leiden Elective Academic Periodical.
‘We wanted to make a stronger link between education and research, and were looking for a project that challenged students to work together,’ Nanne Timmer explains.
‘There aren’t many ways to build that bridge to research, especially for students,’ Astrid van Weyenberg adds. ‘They often only receive feedback on their paper at the end of a course. And then they never do anything more with it, although rewriting is an important part of academic work and some papers have the potential to actually be published. So we’re very proud of these students, and a couple of them have even secured a PhD place for themselves.’
‘We criticised each other’s work, but also had a lot of fun together’
Didi Spaans, Literary Studies master’s student, describes how the journal was created during the coronavirus crisis: ‘We did it all online: discussing the process, writing the articles and evaluating each other’s publications. We criticised each other’s work, got to know each other and also had a lot of fun together, which made it extra special when we could finally meet in person.’
This was also very important for Sophia, a Middle Eastern Studies research master’s student: ‘Working with an interdisciplinary group of students last year made me feel really connected with the Faculty. And teamwork is an inherent aspect of that! Apart from enjoying it so much, I also learned a lot. We had to comment on other people’s work but also had to accept comments ourselves. Reflecting on your own article in that way helps you learn to look critically at your work. It sometimes means you have to completely change a whole section, but afterwards you always find that the end result is stronger.’
Now for the next step: a PhD!
Lotte studied both Law and Literary Studies and had dual expectations of the course: ‘I’d already spent two years as an editor of an academic Law journal, but I had to stop because I just didn’t have enough time. So I wrote a book review instead of an article, as the topic was outside my own research field. In just a short text, I had to capture the essence of what’s important in a novel. I’ve been offered a PhD place in Germany to research concepts of literature in the political and legal context, so it was the perfect combination for me.’
Gabriël has just submitted his Ancient History master’s thesis; he hopes to graduate soon so that he can move to Mainz, where he will start a PhD track. ‘My contribution to the journal was writing an academic article and helping with the design. I learned a lot from reviewing each other’s articles and the fortnightly meetings in small groups. I learned most from the process of writing an academic article: our articles were reviewed by the other students, our lecturers and then by an expert reviewer from the discipline. At all stages of the process I gained concrete knowledge that I could use in applying for my PhD.’
‘Making connections at the personal level is also an important academic skill’
Frank is doing a Literary Studies research master’s and a Classics master’s: ‘It’s become very clear to me that LEAP represents the development we’ve achieved in terms of communication and contact. And that’s important not only at the interdisciplinary or academic level, but also at the personal and emotional level. Making connections at these levels is just as much a part of the academic world as any other academic skill.’
‘It’s very instructive to be criticised by your peers’
Mark Rutgers, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, was presented with the first copy of LEAP by Literary Studies student Matthew. Rutgers: ‘It’s hard work to do research alongside your studies and to publish the results. This is good experience that they’ve now gained. I’ve been publishing academic articles for quite a few years myself, and it’s very instructive to be criticised by your peers or, in this case, your fellow students. They’re much more critical than your lecturers will have been. It’s also good that master’s students learn about how the publication process works. I’m incredibly proud of these students