Notes from an Editor: How to Get Your Academic Article Published PART 2

This is part 2 of a new blog series. For part 1, the advice was: Choose Your Journal Wisely.

My second “note” is this: 

Great articles offer convincing solutions to clear problems.

Often, when I find myself uninterested in or unconvinced by an article, the author has made one of two mistakes (or, maybe, both!)

#1: The problem is (a) not clear, (b) not really a problem, or (c) of very little interest or consequence

#2: The solution is (a) not clear, (b) not really a solution, or (c) not original (or not original enough to merit publication)

To get to a place where you are writing “great” articles, then, it requires careful mapping or planning: Can I identify the problem? Can I articulate the problem in a short sentence or two (for my own clarification, but also to put eventually into an abstract). You should be able to separate your problem portion of your article and have a colleague read it. Can they summarize the “problem” as you have articulated it?

When it comes to solutions, these tend to be easier to identify, but the challenge comes with originality. The author needs to be tuned into the relevant scholarship and able to show how their own solution adds something significant and new to the conversation in such a way that it helps to resolve the problem.

There is a key truth underlying all of this, something that scholars don’t always understand: Articles don’t have to be esoteric to be “academic.” Keep it simple: clear problem –> convincing solution.

Where do you start?

For me, it starts with having a very simple and clear outline of the article that I fill in as I research and write. The outline often (not always) moves from introduction –> problem statement –> (brief) engagement with existing scholarship –> solution statement –> Solution arguments –> clear, but relatively brief summary

Don’t ramble, stick to the plan, clear problem, original solution—easy, right? 🙂

 

 

 

 

Big News: I Have Joined Northern Seminary Faculty

I have some special news to share: fall 2020, I will join the faculty of Northern Seminary to teach in New Testament alongside Scot McKnight. This is an exciting career move for me and I am stoked to engage with the Northern learning community. See the full announcement HERE.

Notes from an Editor: How to Get Your Academic Article Published Part 1

Dec 1, 2019, I was honored to take over editorship duties of Bulletin for Biblical Research, a periodical under the auspices of Institute for Biblical Research. BBR has been around for over a quarter of a century and has consistently produced fine articles and publishes numerous insightful book reviews. If you aren’t a regular reader, check BBR out.

As I have learned how to navigate the BBR editorial process, it has given me pause to consider my own experience of publishing academic articles. I have had some success in this area, but also many rejections—more than I care to admit. Some “rejects” were eventually published in less prestigious journals, others never made it into the published world. Now that I am on the “other side” (in the editor’s role), I see more clearly some of the mistakes I made as an early career writer. Thus, I am launching a blog series geared towards helping academics improve their chances of getting their articles accepted (at BBR—please do send your best work to us!—and also elsewhere).

Choose Your Journal Wisely

There are many good biblical studies journals out there, but each of them has their unique niche or preferred sub-disciplines. Selecting carefully which journal you send your article will save you time and needless rejection. Do not take the shotgun approach and randomly choose your “favorite” journal. Do a bit of research on the best “fit” for your article.

Check journal descriptions

Read the journal’s description on its webpage. This will give you a good sense of its orientation.

Examine the editorial board members

This is going to give you the best sense of whether your work resonates with the journal. Are the board members the kind of people you are citing and interacting with?

Read recent issues

For the main 2-3 journals you are considering, read the last few issues to see what kinds of topics and methods are commonly employed. This will give you a good sense of “fit.” You might even want to do a search for whether that journal has treated your passage or topic before.

Phone a Friend

Recently I wrote an academic article and I was considering which journal to send it to. I had a text conversation with my buddy John Goodrich (who has significant experience in getting articles accepted in world-class journals). He helped me sort out which journal(s) to prioritize. That conversation brought clarity to my decision.

Interview with Dr. Holly Beers, Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman

My friend Dr. Holly Beers kindly answered some questions I had about her wonderful new book, A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman (IVP, 2019). Beers teaches New Testament at Westmont College.

NKG: What inspired you to write this book?
HB: I pursued the academic life because I’ve always wanted to serve the church. I mourn the divide that I often see between biblical scholarship and the church, and one of my life goals is to help bridge that divide. I think that the church needs to be more intentional about using the resources that are already available, but I think an even bigger part of the responsibility falls on Christian scholars, because we need to write books (at least sometimes) not just for other scholars but for the broader church. I’ve always wanted to write a well-researched book that my mom could read. I finally have one for her.
NKG: Biblical scholars don’t normally write fiction. Was this hard for you? How did you learn how to do it well? What was the hardest part? 
YHB: Yes, it was hard, especially at first. I’ve probably read thousands of novels in my life (because I’m nerdy and that’s what I do for fun), but I’ve not written one until now. Some of my first attempts were pretty awkward, if I’m being honest. But then I decided to follow my imagination — to allow myself to see the action in my head, almost like watching a movie — and then I just wrote what I saw. The writing really picked up at that point. The hardest part was trying to decide when to include the historical and cultural information in the story itself and when it needed to be placed in a sidebar because otherwise it was distracting to the story.
 
NKG: I assume you did lots of research on the daily lives of women in the Roman world. What did you learn that surprised you?
HB: Yes, I did a lot of research. One of the most surprising aspects is how often most women would have been out and about in public spaces in the ancient world. They would have gone to the marketplace, the baths, the lecture halls. There’s a common perception that women would have been behind closed doors in private, confined spaces, but that would only have been an option for the very wealthy. Most women needed to participate in the daily routines of their families and communities in order to survive.
NKG: What else are you working on these days?
HB: I have another passion project in the works. I was raised in a Pentecostal context and still see that tradition as my home, and I have wanted to write for that audience. Sometimes in Pentecostal circles there are anti-intellectual sentiments, and they can be valid because Pentecostals have seen the text dissected by scholars rather than engaged as a Spirit-inspired source of life. My friend Craig Keener and I are going to co-edit a new commentary series on the New Testament that aims to serve the (broadly defined) charismatic and Pentecostal church, both in the “west” and around the world. We want to model for our own tradition what it can look like to be informed by the best of scholarship but also be sensitive to the Spirit’s work in inspiring the biblical texts, in our reading and study of the texts, and in our churches and lives today.

2019 CRUX SOLA NT Book Awards: Best Books

As 2019 winds down, it’s time for a celebration of best books of the year. I read many books this year—and there are several titles worthy of interest and attention, but I trimmed my best books list down to three.

Best Monograph

Reading Romans Backwards (Baylor University Press)

ReadingI was asked by BUP to endorse this book, and I was happy to do it because I like Scot’s work overall. But little did I know that I would find is to be some of the best work on Romans I have ever seen—historically rigorous, theologically dynamics, short and punchy. It really is a must-have and must-read. Scholars will appreciate some thoughts on the flow of Romans and the situation; pastors and students will marvel at Romans brought to life.

 

 

Best Reference Work

The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries (T&T Clark)

RJTry to set aside the $545 sticker shock—this is truly an incredible set. 80+ essays by top-flight scholars. My favorite section is the reception of Jesus in visual artifacts (chapters 66-78): Alexamones Graffito, amulets, art, catacombs, sarcophagi, sculptures, staurograms, etc. Sit down with this at your local theological library and take it all in. Ask your library to purchase it—it’s a worthwhile resource!

 

 

Best Book for Christmas Break Reading

A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman (IVP Academic)

GRWHard to put this book into a category, but I highly recommend Holly Beers’ new A Week in the life of a Greco-Roman Woman. Beers knows her ancient social context, but she crafts a nice story to bring it all to life. This is something I am going to try to use in the classroom the first chance I get!

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for a later blog post on honorable mentions and other good books of 2019.