The Pioneer Research Journal: showcasing the top research papers written by high school researchers since 2014

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The Pioneer Research Journal

Why would a high school student do the significant amount of research and writing work required to publish a paper in the highly selective Pioneer Research Journal? One answer to that question is simple. Every Pioneer scholar does significant research that meets the highest standards established by  the Pioneer Research Program. The goal of the program is the research, not the publication. But for those few whose work has been selected for the Journal, and who have taken the extra steps that publication requires, the rewards—both personal and professional—are considerable.

Three Pioneer scholars whose work was published in recent Journal editions reflect on both the personal and professional rewards they experienced as a result of their achievement. On the personal side:

Pioneer scholar Ethan Estrada, from Texas in the United States, says: “Seeing my work in the Journal gave me a level of confidence I hadn’t felt previously. Seeing my hard work gain recognition allowed me to finally respond to the voice inside my head that said I didn’t belong in an academic space. I could finally say, ‘Yes, yes I do!’”

Pioneer scholar Thalia Ou, from Ontario in Canada, says: “It gave me a sense of accomplishment because the Journal is very selective. I felt that my academic talents have been acknowledged.” 

Pioneer scholar Chloe (Ruochen) Jin, from Texas in the United States, says: “Being published in the Journal gave me confidence in my ability to critically analyze materials and conduct research. Being published helped me realize that I can translate my curiosity and desire to better understand the world into valuable work.”

These reactions from students make it clear that the Journal, which was first published in 2014, continues to accomplish its goals. Pioneer founder and director Matthew Jaskol articulates a primary goal: “The most original, well-written pieces are highlighted. It’s kind of a demonstration of some of the best work that can be produced when a student applies the highest level of capability, commitment, and creativity to researching a question they are excited about.”

However, the Pioneer Research Journal is more than just a demonstration of excellent student work. It is a truly international and interdisciplinary professional journal, with articles chosen and reviewed according to the highest academic standards. The papers chosen are intended, in Jaskol’s words, “to showcase the highest quality of research work that would be independently recognized through double-blind review as publishable in an undergraduate-level research journal.”

Since Pioneer’s professor mentors are all invited to submit one or two papers from members of their cohort of scholars, work in each of the many disciplines included in Pioneer’s academic offerings has an opportunity to be represented in the Journal. This has a real advantage for scholar-authors whose work might be in a field not usually sought after by other publications. Many Pioneer scholars’ research addresses questions about which they are passionate, and finding their work acknowledged as professionally significant can have a profound impact on their future professional lives.

Pioneer scholar Ethan, whose paper examined the consequences to youngsters of having to be “language brokers,” interpreting for immigrant parents in highly sensitive and personal situations, says: “Being published in the Journal gives me more hope for the research I hope to do in the future, research about populations and processes that are often neglected, such as language brokering and parentification.”

Pioneer scholar Thalia, whose paper diagnosed a costly disconnect between patients’ needs and the quality of healthcare in China due to the computer programs used to connect patients with care, says: “Publication convinced me to pursue a university major in economics. It made me fully realize my ability and potential in the field of economics, so I want to pursue economics.”

Pioneer scholar Chloe, who evaluated what she observed at a children’s powwow as a way of assessing the interplay of traditional and modern elements in passing Native American culture down to the next generation, says: “With my research being focused on a rather niche field that many have questioned why I dedicated time to, the publication serves as a reminder that I can be boldly and unapologetically passionate about what I love. It also inspired me to explore exciting and productive ways I could continue to engage in the world of academic research in college.”

And Matthew Jaskol emphasizes the value of highlighting “the diversity of interests and where students can take those interests when they strive to accomplish at the height of their academic potential. One of the wonderful things that comes across in these papers is how much students care about important issues that affect our society and our world.”

Published in both print and online editions, the Pioneer Research Journal is a useful tool that helps high school teachers and counselors introduce Pioneer to their students. But more and more, according to Jaskol, the primary readers are students. Students considering Pioneer look at the Journal and are inspired to realize, “I could do that. I would like to do that!” Pioneer scholars trying to develop their own research topics consult the Journal to see the kinds of things their peers have done. Even students not considering Pioneer use the Journal as a way to explore their own potential interests.

Of course, the scholar-authors are not the only people who put a great deal of time into preparing an edition of the Pioneer Research Journal. Dozens of other people are involved—the 45 members of the faculty committee who do the double-blind reviews of all the papers that are submitted, the tutors from the Writing Center who offer suggestions to help turn an outstanding student paper into a publishable journal paper, and of course the production staff who shepherd the work through the many parts of the process from paper evaluation to publication. It is an enormous task—but, says the project’s supervisor, one that is “immensely rewarding.”

The primary function of the Pioneer Research Journal is the same as the focus of any academic journal: to present cutting-edge scholarship in the fields it covers. But the Journal does something unique as well. It offers hope.

Ethan says, “Research, I believe, can be a profound force of good if we empower oppressed and minoritized communities to explore their pasts, presents, and their hopes for the future.”

Chloe says her Pioneer publication experience “motivates me to explore careers centered on critical thinking and utilizing existing information to problem solve or forecast for the future.”

And Director Matthew Jaskol sums up, “I have confidence that some of these students are going to be highly engaged in really positive and impactful work in the future.”

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