AACC liveblog: Getting Published: Bruce Winter: Advice from a Veteran

Bruce says “always contribute to the body of knowledge”…

Argument should take place in the main body of the thesis, not in the footnotes. Some have used footnotes to disown arguments.

In the metamorphous from student to scholar we need to move on from attributing every notion or idea in footnotes and be prepared to argue things out in the text.

What does it mean to be a Christian and an Academic?

Bruce resolved never to engage, in his writings, with trashing other scholars. He believes that evidence should be argued out in the pages without playing the man.

A non-Christian friend made the comment that one of Bruce’s books “wasn’t an easy read.” He came to the realisation that the first paragraph has to be engaging if we are to grab the attention of a reader. Bruce’s rules of thumb:

  1. The heading must entice.
  2. The first sentence must grab the attention.
  3. The second sentence must inform.

This, in my opinion, a good rule of thumb for writing anything. Basically you’ve got to think about how you yourself approach a text – how many academic books have you read right through?

Bruce resolved to agonise most over headings and sub-titles, and introductions. They are important.

Chapter headings need sub-headings. They need to be well thought out structures. We must write with purpose.

Bruce reads the preface, the chapter headings, the chapter introductions and the conclusions (including the links between chapters) before deciding whether to read the whole book. His approach to writing follows his approach to reading.

There must also be a Christian approach to criticism, and especially to the review process. Some journals offer authors the right of reply to reviews – how do you take this opportunity without trashing someone who has trashed your work? We want academic interactions to also be Christian interactions.

Bruce avoids fads in academic circles because they pass. Some publishers love fads and are always in search of the next new thing.

We are accountable to Christ – not to reviewers or audiences.

Questions to ask of your work.

  • Have we added to the body of knowledge?
  • Have we illuminated the text?
  • Have we built people up?
  • Who are we writing for?
  • What we write is the application of our gifts for the benefit of others. So does it benefit others?

Publish or perish is not the motto of the Christian.