A heuristic is a method of guided discovery which enables students to discover answers for themselves.

In the sense we’re going to use it here, an “invention heuristic” is a series of questions which an author uses as a discovery tool, to determine all aspects of the rhetorical situation for a piece of writing.

The rhetorical situation is the context surrounding a piece of writing, and consists of four elements:

  • Exigence (the pressing need that demands something be written)
  • Audience (who it’s being written for)
  • Purpose – both author’s purpose (why write this?) and reader’s purpose (why read it?)
  • Genre or Occasion (the form of writing, how and when it will be presented)

If that doesn’t immediately make sense, don’t worry. The main idea is, it’s very helpful for your writing process if you understand all those issues before you begin writing.

Here are a few sample heuristics, based on notes by Anne Hungerford and the Technical Writing Advanced Workshop course at Simon Fraser University. Let me know if you find them helpful for your writing process!