Canada’s oldest undergraduate history journal, The Mirror, founded in 1981, publishes undergraduate history essays from all across Canada. This year alone, they had 60 submissions across four provinces.
Marisa Coulton, Editor-in-Chief of The Mirror and a fourth-year international relations student at Western University, has made it her mission to help The Mirror make its way into the modern world.
“Under my tenure, we’ve been able to establish a website, which didn’t exist before, an online submissions wizard, social media presence and platforms, and we started to use Google Drive for edits.”
She credits Western Libraries for a lot of this new technology, as they provide students with a platform called Open Journal Systems. The platform has risen in popularity among student journals as of late due to the elegant submissions system behind it. OJS exists to provide journals with a free tool to make open-access publishing possible. The software's mission ties hand-in-hand with that of The Mirror in that they both seek to share quality research with the public.
Part of the reason this new submissions system is so important is that it widens the scope the magazine can have. In the past, submissions had to be done by mail and all editing had to be done on paper. This made editing a much lengthier process, and submitting essays — especially from out-of-province universities — was a hassle.
Not everyone, however, understands the importance of publications like this one. It may just be a history magazine to some, but to ambitious history students, it can offer the first real chance to get published. Opportunities for publication during your undergrad career can be difficult to come by, but according to Coulton, it's “kind of a big deal.”
Getting research or essays published can bolster your internship and graduate school candidacy, and can also play a key role in obtaining scholarships.
The peer-review aspect of The Mirror helps give editors a taste of what a career in publishing might be like while also exposing them to history papers from students across Canada.
Making the magazine more varied and innovative has also involved taking away the bias that was previously present in the magazine. Although the editing board consists of Western students and the magazine is based at Western, the magazine operates on a national scale.
“I wanted to alleviate bias, so I established an anonymous submissions process. Because it was anonymous, we ended up selecting two essays by the same guy: Matt Sparling," explains Coulton. "The fact is, because it was anonymous, both of his essays got a fair shot. At the end of the day, we were like, ‘Oh my god, can we publish twice?’ And we were like, ‘You know what? We have to, because he earned it fair and square.’ ”
The editorial board edits for style, content and clarity, but when selecting, they look for new and unique pieces. At the same time, the papers must have been written for an undergraduate history class, they must include the professors comments and have merited a grade of at least 80 per cent.
Getting the magazine online is an important future goal for The Mirror, but for now, they’re a print publication that can be purchased online or at The Book Store at Western for $10.
The Mirror still has a ways to go in online presence, but the journal represents opportunities for students, and Coulton is working hard to give the journal an “omnipresence” in 2019.
Correction (1:48 p.m., April 2): Paragraph 1 was updated to accurately reflect the number of submissions received by the journal.
Correction (2:35 p.m., April 2): Paragraph 4 erroneously described OJS as a subsidiary of Western Libraries. The system was created by Simon Fraser University's Public Knowledge Project.