Heuristics are semi-structured exercises writers use to stimulate creative thinking about a topic. Heuristics do not predispose a particular outcome but are instead meant to serve as points of departure. There is no right and wrong way to conduct a heuristic.

Synonyms: Prewriting Strategies.


The term heuristic is derived from the Greek word heuresis, which means to discover or invent.

Whereas Drafting refers to a writer’s effort to actually write a document, maybe a first draft or even a sentence or two that has the kernel of something larger, writers experiment with heuristics to stimulate their creative thinking about a topic, to manage tasks associated with the project, and to refine their thinking about the rhetorical situation.

Heuristics are sort of like an athlete’s warm up exercises. For instance,

  • a writer could write a reflective note about the rhetorical situation or maybe as work plan for drafting and collaborating.
  • While reading, the writer could draft a book mark about the status of scholarly conversation about the topic. The writer could conduct even a bit of metacognitive work about whether the project is really worth doing.