Using Pinterest for Thesis Inspiration


Social media is usually a productivity deathtrap. This is especially true when we’re trying to write.

Too often I have to turn off the Internet as a safeguard against checking Facebook for the 17th time, that day. When I was prepping for my qualifying exams I deactivated my account.

But social media isn’t the enemy of our productivity. How we use it really matters.

Our relationship to social media is both parasitic and symbiotic. I’m sure you can come up with a decent list of how Facebook ruins your writing routine, so I’ll leave the loathing up to you. However, I do want to tell you about my new fascination with Pinterest. More about Pinterest here.

I’ve been using it to inspire ideas for my chapter on body politics and sport migration. There are several online articles about athletes who represent nations other than the ones they call “home.” I’ve started pinning ones about women who fit this bill (especially American women) on a private Pinterest board titled “Migrant Athletes.”

Am I going to use these articles in a chapter? Probably not. But collecting these stories are helping me on my dissertation writing journey in several ways.

  1. It reminds me that people outside of academia are also interested in migrant athletes in global sports competitions.
  2. I get to see the kinds of issues and debates that concern spectators about these athletes.
  3. I learn more about the way these athletes negotiate their public identities as ambassadors of a given nation.
  4. It grounds my research by showing me the lived manifestations of my theoretical thinking.
  5. It keeps me motivated and inspired to be part of this conversation in both the public and academic spheres.
  6. It’s helping me figure out my “so what?” for the chapter.

Pinterest is also a practical tool. Up until recently, I’ve been using bookmarks on my browser or Pocket to collect internet articles and videos. The problem is that I’m a visual learner and organizer.

I like the way most media on the web is set up to be pinned. Once pinned, I have my articles and videos in one aesthetically pleasing space, which I’m more likely to return to and update.

I know there are other tools to help with research organization like Evernote and OneNote. They’re useful for other aspects of my research. But for collecting online content, going back to read them, and getting inspiration from them, I like the simplicity and aesthetics of Pinterest.

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