Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.

Intuition Heuristics

Not surprisingly, different minds engage in "intuitive" invention in different ways. Tilly Warnock, in Writing is Critical Action, observes that there are two main types of student inventors: the "gushers," who invent profusely, and the "ekers," who invent slowly and painfully. You might ask yourself if you fall into one of these two categories.

Warnock divides invention heuristics into two categories: "loosening" heuristics, to help loosen up the ekers, and "control" heuristics, to help the gushers find focus.

Let's look at the "control" heuristics first. These usually involve proceeding in an ordered way through questions or topics. One simple example of a control would be the set of questions which reporters use when covering a story: who, what, when, where, why, how. By asking yourself detailed questions about your subject in each of these six categories, you can break it open in systematic ways.

A slightly different control heuristic based on systematic questioning involves "the five perspectives," adapted by W. Ross Winterowd, a professor at the University of Southern California. Essentially, he advises looking at our subject through a variety of different lenses and getting ideas that way. Here's the system in action. He takes the Los Angeles freeway system as a sample topic and shows how one can explore its different facets by using five different perspectives :