Idea Generation and Material Consolidation: Tool Use and Intermediate Artefacts in Journalistic Writing

S Attfield, S Fegan, Ann Blandford
in Cognition, Technology and Work, Journal article


We report an in-depth, longitudinal study of a freelance music journalist writing a feature article. Our analysis attends to the participant's activities from initiation to completion, and the ways in which she established structure using tools and artefacts to support cognitive effort. We observed five work stages: establishing an initial idea; preparing for an interview; interviewing; planning the article; and writing. Each resulted in the production of a working document embodying ideas and commitments which provided a key resource for the next stage. Stages began with phases of idea generation during which ideas were spontaneously triggered through intense engagement with information resources. They finished with phases of material consolidation when intermediate artifacts were configured to facilitate generation during the next stage. We examine these in detail and use our findings to motivate a discussion of working document overview representations and specific requirements related to idea generation and material consolidation.