Idea tactics

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Citation: Marcia J. Bates (1979) Idea tactics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science (RSS)

doi: 10.1002/asi.4630300507

Tagged: IR (RSS), information seeking behavior (RSS), search strategy (RSS), problem solving (RSS)


This paper presents 17 "idea tactics" for helping in information searching: 6 idea generation tactics and 11 pattern breaking tactics. It forms part of the literature of search strategy and is closely related to problem solving. The heart of the paper is Table 1, which summarizes the tactics.

Idea generation tactics

  • Think
  • Brainstorm
  • Meditate
  • Consult
  • Rescue (check for other untried paths that may be productive, when a search is going wrong)
  • Wander

Pattern Breaking Tactics

  • Catch
  • Break
  • Breach (redefine the boundaries, either mental or physical)
  • Reframe
  • Notice
  • Jolt
  • Change
  • Focus
  • Dilate
  • Skip (shift one's view laterally -- either switching the aspect being searched or switching the view of the search)
  • Stop

See also

Bates wrote a related paper on Information search tactics

Theoretical and practical relevance:

This paper provides practical guidance for information seekers. Avoid getting stuck on a problem by using these idea tactics!

Interestingly, interviews with experienced reference librarians, yield nearly no strategy and tactics. The model is emphasized as a facilitation model (rather than as a representational model).