The NACADA Journal is a publication of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, an international, educational association of individuals engaged in the work of academic advising. The Journal forms the backbone of the scholarship of advising and plays a key role in supporting the development of advising as a profession. This content analysis indicates the most common topics covered in the journal as well as its intended audience. It also identifies previous authors and their affiliations, as well as determines common research practices and methodological approaches used in their articles. The analysis includes 22 biannual issues of the journal across a decade (2010−2020) and shares implications and future directions for the journal.
An organization's scholarly journal reveals much about the current status of the profession. It captures growth within the profession as well as its prevailing models, standards, and practices. A content analysis of articles in a journal over a period of time documents where that field has been and speaks to where it is headed. Thus, as two new coeditors of the NACADA Journal took the helm in 2020 and 2021, it was an ideal time to examine the contents of the journal across the past decade to look at what has been accomplished and to develop future directions.
Scholars commonly conduct periodic analyses of journals (e.g., Bashiri & Khorasani, 2017; Blancher et al., 2010; Bond et al., 2019; Buboltz et al., 1999; Cokley et al., 2014; Ghahramani et al., 2018; Guan et al., 2019; Guffey & Harp, 2017; Horton et al., 1993; Hudson & Silveira, 2020; Jordaan et al., 2013; Little et al., 2011; Mahoney et al., 2008; Nazione et al., 2013; Simpson, 2019; Stroud et al., 2017; Wallgren et al., 2021; Weiner & White, 2007; Yarbrough, 2002). These analyses serve to identify authors and their affiliation, as well as common research practices and methodological approaches. In sum, they reveal who and what shape scholarship in a field. Examining a journal's contributors also uncovers who is not found and needs a voice. For example, a content analysis in the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education illuminated the need for the journal to “extend the focus of research to include voices not yet represented in the literature, often unrecognized due to geographic, linguistic, and cultural barriers” (Simpson, 2019, p. ii).
Conversely, the examination of a journal's content throughout a time period also reveals the most common areas of research and the intended audience. Was the focus on practitioners, academicians, or both? What topics sharply increased? Is there a dearth on other topics? To answer these questions, the analysis reveals actively investigated subjects, those that demand further study, and what remains unexplored. Such findings can guide future research. For example, an analysis conducted on publications from 2010−2016 in the Journal of Rural Research revealed that while their number of female authors increased, their authors were still two-thirds male (Bashiri & Khorasani, 2017). The analysis also identified geographical areas that needed study. A content analysis of the retired Journal of Inebriety revealed how this journal captured and vibrantly documented the historical underpinnings of the medical treatment of addiction. The journal recorded the important work put forth in the United States to establish and legitimize the field of addiction medicine and revealed that many of the journal's topic areas mirrored contemporary debates and foci. Thus, a content analysis can place contemporary content into historical context as well as document growth or a lack thereof (Weiner & White, 2007). Overall, such analyses help to address whether a journal meets its stated mission.
The NACADA Journal's first issue appeared after the NACADA organization itself had existed for 2 years. At that time, academic advising was a burgeoning field. Launched in 1981, the Journal continues to be published biannually and serves as a refereed journal of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA, 2022a). The mission of the NACADA Journal is “to advance the field of academic advising through the publication of peer-reviewed research and scholarship that contributes to our understanding and improvement of the learning experiences of all students” (NACADA, 2022b, para. 2). The mission also calls for inclusive research and scholarship that is “applicable and transferable to multiple higher education contexts [with] perspectives about academic advising from scholars representing all disciplines and fields of study” (NACADA, 2022b, para. 4 & 5).
In 1998 and 2001, Gordon and Grites contributed foundational articles providing historical background on the Journal and summarized author characteristics over the Journal's first 20 years. There were more male authors than female authors, with an increasing number of female authors in the second decade, a movement away from a 3:1 ratio in the first decade. They also found an “extremely high” number of faculty contributors and a declining number of authors who were advisors and advising coordinator/directors (Gordon & Grites, 1998, p. 74). Concerned about the decreasing number of pieces from individuals in the field, Gordon and Grites (1998) concluded that “academic advisors do not write about what they are doing even though they have something of value to share” (p. 74). To this end, they suggested that advisors and advising coordinators/directors collaborate with faculty members and capitalize on the access advisors have to students from a wide range of populations. They also called upon advisors and advising coordinators/directors to consider developing the presentations they commonly give at state, regional, and national conferences, and that those newly entering the field pursue publication of their theses and dissertations.
Gordon and Grites (2001) also found that authors in the first 20 years of the NACADA Journal affiliated mainly with major public institutions, followed by those from other public universities and colleges. They noted that this was not alarming in context, given that the number of public institutions was much larger than the number of private colleges. However, they called for greater representation from community colleges. In relation to topics, a decline in articles on advising techniques, major/career choice, theory/philosophy, legal issues, and peer advising occurred from the first decade to the next. Gordon and Grites (1998) attributed this change to the necessity of a more practical focus during the field's earlier years. Others argued that a change in the Journal's direction in the 1990s resulted from new editors who brought a differing vision (Miller & Miller, in press). An increase in articles about student-athletes and adult learners emerged in the Journal's second decade, while the subject of student retention remained an emphasis area across both decades. Regarding other topics, Gordon and Grites (1998) called for increased scholarship on professional development and emphasized the importance of publishing new technology-related information. In addition, they called for contributions on the effectiveness of advising practices related to student outcomes and on the changing nature of students. They also stressed the importance of addressing advising-related topics as they emerge, particularly the value of sharing innovative practices to develop the field of advising and expand the voice of the profession.
In relation to the authors' sources, Gordon and Grites (1998) found that by its second decade the NACADA Journal had become “the primary sources for itself” (p. 9). This fact does validate scholars and practitioners' need for and use of the Journal; however, they also noted the importance of using the full body of available literature and resources pertaining to advising, higher education, and student development. They described the vast array of outside sources authors used as “fascinating” (Gordon & Grites, 1998, p. 11) and noted that they culled from many disciplines and publication types. The sources ranged “from the New England Journal of Medicine, the Harvard Business Review, Education, and Law Reviews, the American Journal of Agriculture Economics, the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Quaker Life, and even The Holy Bible, to name a few” (Gordon & Grites, 1998, p. 11).
More than 20 years has passed since Gordon and Grites (1998, 2001) analyzed the sources used in Journal articles, its authors, and common topics. To obtain a more recent picture of the Journal, we have adapted and applied Gordon and Grites' work (1998, 2001) to the years 2010 through 2020. This content analysis revealed who our authors have been in the past decade, helping to identify the “speaking voice” of the association and the profession (Gordon & Grites, 2001, p. 70). Additionally, this analysis explored what topics were covered in the Journal and the absence therein points to areas of future exploration and growth.
This analysis examined NACADA Journal content from 2010 through 2020 using both inductive and deductive procedures to develop the coding categories (Saldaña, 2021). Deductively, coding categories adopted for our analysis were based on the “major themes” and “special topics” used by Gordon and Grites (1998) in their article, “The NACADA Journal 1981−1997: Fulfilling Its Purpose?” Inductive procedures involved reviewing the contents of the journal beforehand so that overall general impressions could inform the update and expansion of these major themes and specific topics. For example, their major theme “Developmental Advising” was expanded to “Advising Models/Philosophy” due to the emergence of additional advising models since 1998. Their “Professional Development” category changed to “Advisor-Focused” to establish a broader “through the advisor's eyes” category capturing the expanding range of advisor-oriented topics such as academic advising competencies, core values, and advisor job satisfaction. “Administrative/Organizational Systems” expanded to “Advising Systems/Advisor Types” to ensure that items were not left out of this category. Also added were the new major themes of “Technology/Online,” “Advising in Another Country,” and “Equity and Inclusion Issues or Students.” “Testing/Study Skills” broadened into “Student Skills” to emphasize a broader range of competencies including soft skills and career readiness, and we added “Personality and Individual Variables” under “General Advising Topics” to count for the exploration of student characteristics related to advising. “Student Perceptions/Adjustment” was separated into “Student Perceptions of Advising” and “Student Adjustment” for clarity. Reflecting progression in the field, additional “Specific Topics” under “Student Populations,” included Dual Enrollment/AP Credit Students, First Generation Students, LGBQT Students, Veterans, Lower SES/Pell, Religions, English as Second Language, Immigrants, Predominantly White Institutions, Historically Black Colleges & Universities, and Tribal Colleges & Universities. The addition of these specific topics reflects an effort to track journal content in line with the NACADA Organization's core value of inclusivity (NACADA, 2022c) and the Journal's mission to provide inclusive research and scholarship (NACADA, 2022b).
Like Gordon and Grites (1998), we coded multiple major themes as well as more than one specific topic for each article when it addressed more than one of these. Subsequently, the number of major themes exceeds the total number of articles. The Appendix presents a comparison of the “major themes” and corresponding “specific topics” subcategories used in 1998 with those used in our analysis. Gordon and Grites (1998) coded all studies as either quantitative or conceptual, defining “conceptual” as “no data” (p. 8). We expanded this category to qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods, and conceptual. Examining the themes within the conceptual type of study captures articles from a narrative, constructivist epistemology (Hagen, 2019). The Journal acknowledges the importance of this approach in contributing to a rich theoretical and philosophical discourse on the meaning, value, and understanding of academic advising (Hagen, 2019; van den Wijingaard, 2019). This approach can facilitate “building a robust literature base about academic advising and its relationship to student learning and success in higher education through the publication of rigorous empirical, theoretical, and philosophical works” (NACADA 2022b, para. 1). For this reason, the analysis also examined the specific topics covered within the conceptual category.
The content analysis included a compilation of type of samples and data collected; sources used; and author background including professional titles, education, institutional affiliation, and institutional type. The analysis yielded frequencies for number of authors per article as well as author gender.
From 2010 through 2020, the Journal published 22 issues containing 148 research articles with a mode of seven articles per issue (M = 6.73), with an average article word count of 4,545 words. Each issue included other types of pieces such as From the Coeditors, Letters to the Editors, and Book Reviews. A breakdown of types of contributions is presented in Table 1.
Authors and Affiliations
The sum of authors for each article totaled 340: 217 females and 123 males, with lead authors of the 148 articles at 94 female and 54 male. Table 2 presents a breakdown of author gender. First authors were associated with a wide range of departments and programs. They most often came from education/counselor education departments and from advising/student services; a smaller but sizable number of first authors came from psychology departments. In aggregate, other liberal arts departments (excluding psychology) and offices of research/assessment were also common. A smaller number of contributors were in offices of undergraduate studies, STEM departments, and business departments. Table 3 shows the frequencies of the most common first author departments/offices and includes those that occurred three or more times.
In relation to institutional affiliation, authors were from five companies/foundations and 142 different institutions of higher education, including two international universities: Zayed University (United Arab Emirates), and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Of these institutions, 129 were four-year institutions and 13 were two-year/community colleges. Additional description of author institutional affiliations appears in Table 4. Five authors contributed three or more articles in the 2010 through 2020 timeframe, with two who could be considered senior contributors and NACADA leaders. Prolific authors are shown in Table 5.
Single authors were most common with 49 total articles written by a sole author, followed by pairs of authors for 46 articles. The maximum number of authors for any article was six. In relation to support, authors reported grant-backing for only 11 studies; of these, seven were NACADA grants, two external grants (the National Science Foundation and the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education [NetVUE]), one internal grant, and one was supported by both a NACADA and an NASP Foundation Grant. A total of eight annual NACADA research grant recipients subsequently published in the Journal.
The “major themes” that occurred most often were Specific Student Populations, General Advising Topics, Advising Models/What is Advising and Advisor-Focused topics, with articles about specific student populations being the most common. Within that theme, First Time in College, Undecided, Student Athletes, Specific Majors/Programs of Study, and Community College/Two-Year Students received the most focus. The second most common type of article was on a General Advising Topic. Within this area, Student Perception/Satisfaction with Advising; Student Personality and Individual Variables; and Major-Career Choice/Indecision appeared most frequently. Articles focusing on Advising Models/Philosophy were the third-most prevalent with Developmental and Proactive/Intrusive Advising receiving the most attention. The fourth most common general theme was Advisor-Focused articles. Multiple themes and specific topics were coded when an article centered on more than one, and Table 6 provides frequencies of the “Major Themes.” Table 7 shares the breakdown of the “Specific Topic” subcategories and includes the type of specific population if it appeared in the Journal more than once.
Types of Studies and Methods
The Journal published quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, and conceptual articles. The most were quantitative, with 58 studies (39.19%), followed by 47 (31.76%) qualitative, 35 (23.65%) conceptual, and eight (5.40%) mixed methods. The analysis included a close look at the content within the conceptual category because this category captured humanities-based approaches that advance the theoretical and philosophical scholarship valued in the Journal's vision. Table 8 presents a breakdown of this category's contents.
In relation to the type of data used in the quantitative and qualitative work, forced-choice measures were used much more than any other type of data, followed by interview data. As expected, college students made up almost all samples, followed by advisors/advising administrators. No other type of sample appeared more than once. Multiple sample and data types were coded when present in a study, as illustrated in Table 9.
Sources Used by Authors
Regarding sources used by authors, the NACADA Journal remains its own primary source, but other NACADA sources are now greatly used in addition to the Journal (e.g., NACADA Review, Academic Advising Today, NACADA monographs, NACADA Clearinghouse, and the NACADA website). The second-most commonly used sources during the past decade were books on advising; additionally, authors cited a wide range of peer-reviewed journals. Just as Gordon and Grites (1998) found that the outside sources authors used were from a fascinating and vast array of publication types, so were the authors' sources in the 2010−2020 decade. For example, in addition to the expected sources, they included the Journal of the International Ombudsman, The New York Times, Journal of Political Economy, Nutrition & Dietetics, Ecography, Nursing Research, Diversity & Democracy, Numeracy, and Daedalus to name a few. Table 10 shares the most commonly used sources.
The results of the analysis of the contents of the NACADA Journal from 2010 through 2020 reveal a vast array of authors with different institutional affiliations who work within many different departments/offices. This reality reflects the fact that contributions to the scholarship of advising come from many disciplines and areas and suggests the Journal's progress toward meeting its mission for inclusive research and scholarship that is “applicable and transferable to multiple higher education contexts” (NACADA, 2022b, para. 4). Moreover, the relative balance between authors with job titles reflecting faculty/academic positions and those in advising and other student support/service positions suggests that the Journal has reached a better balance of contributions by practitioners and academicians. Coding efforts in the area of author information (i.e., education, department) suggest that it may be beneficial to ask our authors to convey this information clearly in their author notes. Similarly, sample coding revealed the need to ask authors using samples to convey specifics about the sample and the institution(s) from which the sample was pulled, including two- or four-year; public or private; size; region; and when applicable, land grant and Carnegie classification.
In relation to its mission, the Journal also aspires “to advance the field of academic advising through the publication of peer-reviewed research and scholarship that contributes to our understanding and improvement of the learning experiences of all students” (NACADA, 2022b, para. 2). While 16 different student populations had two or more articles focused on them, other student populations were absent from the Journal such as: LGBQTA+ students; immigrants; students with physical, learning, and psychological disabilities; and students with socioeconomic barriers. Additional important areas of further research include a focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities in order to advance the Journal's mission for “perspectives about academic advising from scholars representing all disciplines and fields of study” (NACADA, 2022b, para. 5).
The less common categories coded within Major Themes (see Table 6) include equity/inclusion, technology/online, and advising in another country. Although these topics appeared less often, the existing articles may spur future growth. Given NACADA's global priorities, the Journal is considering additional ways to support and encourage international authors. As more international authors become established in the advising scholarship, inviting international scholars onto the editorial board is a future goal.
Considerably more male authors appeared in the Journal's first 20 years. An examination of authors from 2010 through 2020 finds that the tide has turned. Of the 340 authors listed on the articles, 217 were female and 123 male. There were also more female first authors. Going forward, the Journal will be moving beyond binary conceptualizations and will ask authors to self-identify their gender (Garrett-Walker & Montagno, 2021).
Paralleling Gordon and Grites' (2001) findings, authors were still mostly from public institutions. Although these authors were from a wide range of public universities, we would like to see a greater voice from the community colleges. The trend of sole authorship of articles also endures. In relation to topic areas, solid coverage in the areas of retention and student athletes remained, while coverage of what Gordon and Grites (1998) called “adult students” dropped but was still present. Gordon and Grites (2001) also called for increased scholarship on the professional development of advisors. Throughout the last decade, the Journal did just that with a major rise in advisor-focused scholarship including many studies that explored topics through the eyes of advisors, addressed the professionalization of advising, and Academic Advising Competencies, CAS Standards, Core Values in Advising, and advisor skills. The call made by Gordon and Grites (1998) for more coverage of the topic of advising and technology was met with articles related to advising and emerging technology. With ever changing and advancing technology, this will continue to be an important topic. Gordon and Grites (1998, 2001) also emphasized the value of sharing innovative practices to continue developing the field of advising and to expand the profession's voice. Over the last decade, this is exactly what happened with the expansion of articles promoting new advising models and techniques.
In its first 20 years, the Journal included many more conceptual articles than any other kind. This has changed. From 2010 through 2020, almost 40% of the articles were quantitative, 32% were qualitative, and only 24% conceptual (the other 5% were mixed methods). The call made 20 years ago for more empirically based work (Gordon & Grites, 1998) was met. Ironically, recent concerns have been raised about an overemphasis on empirical approaches and the social sciences in advising scholarship. Inclusion of humanities-based scholarship and the methods of all disciplines is essential to advancing the field of academic advising. Only by maintaining a balance of “rigorous empirical, theoretical and philosophical works” (NACADA, 2022b, para.1) can the Journal's vision be met.
Innovative collaborations between researchers and advising practitioners constitute another potential way to enhance the discourse on academic advising. These collaborations have the potential to capitalize on advising practitioners' more holistic views of students, their direct experiences, and on the idea that, arguably, they “ask the best research questions” (Troxel, 2019, p. 55). These scholarly partnerships could increase content related to direct advising applications often sought by practitioners (Troxel, 2019).
Moving beyond single-program, single-site samples is a logical next step for future quantitative studies. Collaborations and writing-teams across institutions can expand perspectives and widen the generalizability of findings, perhaps by a scholar-mentorship program developed in collaboration with NACADA, or via collaboration between writing-teams, newer researchers, and the Journal's more prolific authors. These efforts could also specifically involve international authors. Because practitioner/scholar partnerships, emerging-researcher/experienced-researcher mentoring, U.S.-scholar/international-scholar connections, and collaborations across institutions all involve linking individuals for a common goal, the idea of establishing a NACADA scholarship-mentor program, scholarship mentoring academy, or adding scholarship mentoring as a NACADA Committee might be an ideal way to facilitate mentor-mentee matches and to engage NACADA members and authors as potential mentors. Tying such collaborations to research awards would confirm this as a priority.
NACADA supports growth through research grants given annually and across multiple years. An increase in grant recipients' research publications is one area of opportunity. Ways to increase publication of NACADA grant-funded work might involve increased contact and follow-up with grant recipients, greater accountability built-in for recipients, and increased research mentoring opportunities. Familiarizing potential contributors with external funding opportunities and procedures, and encouraging them to apply, may also prove beneficial in supporting advising research.
The NACADA Journal continues to form the backbone of the scholarship of advising. It advances and grows the knowledge base of its readers. Just as previous editors noted in its early years, the Journal serves the critical function of sharing innovative practices and plays a key role in supporting the development of advising as a profession.
Karen (Kari) Mottarella, PsyD, is a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology Department at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the coeditor of the NACADA Journal. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and teaches clinical-related courses and career readiness courses in the undergraduate and master's programs. She created the UCF Psychology Advising Center for psychology majors, the largest major at one of the nation's largest universities. Dr. Mottarella received university awards for Faculty Advisor of the Year, Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year, and Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for the College of Sciences. Dr. Mottarella may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa M. Rubin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education, Counseling, and Student Affairs at Kansas State University. She serves as coeditor of the NACADA Journal and past chair of the NACADA-NCAA Advisory Board. Dr. Rubin is a recipient of the 2020 Research Award, 2019 Professional Excellence Award, and 2009 Professional Promise Award from the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals (N4A). She received the Big 12 Faculty Fellowship and the NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant in 2018. She was named one of the Top 25 Woman Leaders in Higher Education and Beyond by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education in 2017.
Thomas J. Grites retired as the Assistant Provost of Academic Support at Stockton University (in NJ). He previously served as Director of Academic Advising, Interim Director of Teacher Education, Interim Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs. He is a founding member of NACADA and served as its president for two terms. He currently serves as Senior Editor of the NACADA Journal and regularly provides other services to NACADA. He has made many national conference presentations related to advising, has written extensively on the topic, and has served as a consultant to more than 100 campuses on academic advising in higher education. He has been awarded several national, regional, and institutional alumnus awards throughout his career.
Special acknowledgment and appreciation goes to the University of Central Florida Psychology students who served as coders for this project: Annamarie Brosnihan, Ileana Celestin, Brettland Coolidge, Raya Damuth, Lauren Santos, Janice Ealy, Corina Espinal, Raquel Gutierrez, Ashleigh Jachles, Alexandra Kalish, Juliette LaMagna, Melissa Manning, Rachel Lea, Carmel Murray, Garrett Rainey, Gabriella Sanchez, Ashley Santana, Serina Schoelank, Kristina Schoenthaler, Kyle Sullivan, Vanessa Tomasik, and Sebastian Yengle.