Where I get my blog ideas and teaching examples

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I’ve had a few people ask me recently where I get my ideas for this blog. The short answer is everywhere and anywhere. But that’s not a very satisfying answer. Another answer: I get ideas for this blog from the same places I get ideas for new content and new examples for my classes. That’s also not a very satisfying answer, but maybe that gets closer to the underlying question.

As a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), I get their flagship magazine Science every week delivered in print. H. Holden Thorp’s editorial that opens each issue and the “working life” essay that closes each issue provide interesting blog fodder. I see that Science is bringing us a special issue on sleep at the end of October 2023. I fully expect a few posts will be based on that issue alone. This blog post on who does science was prompted by a Thorp editorial in Science.

As a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), I get both the American Psychologist and the Monitor on Psychology. Again, both in print. While the Monitor often has excellent feature articles, it’s the short research summaries that most frequently catch my attention. Each summary ends with a DOI that makes it comparatively easy to look up the original article. Since the font size for the DOI is quite tiny, each month, I feel like I’m taking an eye test. I’m still passing the test, but when I start failing, I’m ready with my phone’s camera or a visit to the online edition of the Monitor. This blog post on financial psychology was prompted by an interview in the Monitor.

The last two publications I get in print are Smithsonian Magazine and Scientific American. The latter publishes more articles that generate blog ideas than the former. This blog post on recreational fear was prompted by a Scientific American article.  

My organization system for anything I find potentially blog-worthy in these print publications is pretty straightforward. I rip out the article and put it on top of the stack of previously ripped out articles. It took me a bit to settle on this system. Ripping out pages was hard at first. But since our local public library no longer accepted print magazines for their give-away table, my magazines are destined for the recycling bin. I don’t think our recyclers care if the magazines have missing pages. Although, maybe they’re reading them. Hmmm.

I also read from a number of news sources online. The feeds from those news sources come into my news feed reader, Inoreader. Here are a few of my favorite news sources for psychology-relevant material: Science Daily, Positive News, Good News Network, Optimist Daily, New York Times Most Shared, Health, and Science, The Learning Scientists blog, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, and NPR Shots health blog. When I see something that could be the subject of a blog post, I tag it with “Macmillan blog.” And anything I see that could go into one of my courses or one of my books, I tag it by book or course and chapter, such as “I-txt: Memory & Cognition” or “S-txt: Groups.” This blog post on pop-up charity shops was prompted by a Positive News article. This blog post on air traffic controllers and sleep and this one on decreasing loneliness with weak ties were prompted by articles from my New York Times Most Shared news feed.

While I primarily use Inoreader to categorize stuff I might want to use, I also use Trello and Zotero. I have a Trello board for each of my courses. Within in each board, I have a list for each chapter, and then in each list I have a card for something I might want to change in that chapter the next time I teach the course. In Zotero, I have all of the research article pdfs and websites I reference in my writing. Each writing project has its own folder. I can also tag articles in Zotero, but I’m not quite ready to move everything there just yet. I may keep the “possibles” in Inoreader and save Zotero for the stuff that I am actually using. Or at least that’s my system today.

Do you have a system that works for you? Please share in the comments.

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.