Last year I did a set of posts on how senior scholars do research (Gorman, Dunn, Attridge, Bond, Blomberg, etc.). A few commenters asked if I would share how I myself do research. Well, I am still learning, which is part of why I wanted to do the series in the first place. But I am now about a decade into my life as a researcher, so I thought I would share where I am on this at the moment. I will tackle this in multiple posts.
The Big Picture: How I approach the task of research
Smaller projects tend to come to me by invitation, but I when it comes to bigger ones, about half the time it is my own initiative and interest. Currently I am working on a few commentaries, a NT textbook (with my co-blogger, Chris), a reference volume on 1-2 Thessalonians, and a monograph on Paul’s faith language. After I decide to write a book, I do some mapping of the work. When it is a commentary, the mapping is rather straightforward. I make some deadlines for myself regarding how long it will take me to write section-by-section. I try to spend the first 6-12 months delving into primary literature. For a commentary in particular, I print out the Greek text (triple spaced) and put it into a binder. Then I translate and analyze that Greek text with colored pencils or pens and go over it again and again. I want my commentary work to be inspired by fresh thought.
Also, I try to go out of my way to do published book reviews on new books in the area of my research, so that I force myself to stay up-to-date on the scholarship. Also, as best as possible, I try to ensure that I get a chance to teach on the subject(s) of my research. This gives me a good chance to test my ideas out on students and to receive their questions and feedback. This has been invaluable throughout the years.
In terms of tackling the secondary literature, I go to ATLA and collect the major bibliography list for my work. Some of it will happen to be in my personal library, some able to be downloaded as pdfs, but I keep a special list of those items I need to order (through ILL or our local consortium). If there is simply too much material for me to wade through, I rank items – (A) if it is high priority and if it seems most pressing and relevant, (B) if it may be relevant; all else tends to get put on the back-burner.
To be continued…