How to Write a Policy Brief | 22 Free Templates and Examples

Policy-brief-template

A Policy Brief Template is created for government policymakers and other people interested in influencing or formulating policy in the proper format of a form. A Policy Brief is a short document that describes a particular policy issue or advocates for a particular position.

They can also be given to students as writing assignments to be delivered to the professor and your class.

How Policy Brief is Different

Following are the ways in which policy briefs differ from other kinds of writing assignments:

Audience

Policy briefs are usually created for government policymakers, or anybody interested in understanding how a policy change could affect them. This means that every policy brief should not be written for experts only but for regular people who can make decisions accordingly.

This means that sometimes, your reader may be a supporter of your work or an opponent. For example, non-profit organizations that deal with ocean pollution could receive support from the general public and opposition from government officials. This difference is important to understand as it helps you craft the best message for both your supporters and antagonists.

If you are writing a policy brief for a class assignment, make sure to ask your professor to identify the intended audience for the policy brief.

Tone and terminology

Since we have established that policy briefs are written for regular people who can make policy changes, the tone and terminologies used in writing policy briefs must be simple and easy to understand.

As much as possible, get rid of any academic jargon and use direct terms that your audience can understand. If you need to introduce specialized terminologies, explain them clearly so that your reader doesn’t get confused or stuck.

Purpose

The purpose of a policy brief differentiates it from other forms of writing, like regular research papers about different topics. While a regular research paper is written to educate people and present information based on research, a policy brief guides the reader to make decisions that affect change.

Although the same argument is presented as the regular research paper in the case of the policy brief, the policy brief relates the research findings to current policy debates. Thus, it helps the reader take action on the best decision based on the information presented.

Format

To ensure that the tone is consistent with the purpose of the brief and directly communicates with the target audience, policy briefs are created with a specific format in mind. Although structures differ from one policy brief to another, there are mainly similar requirements many policy briefs must meet.

Policy brief templates usually have short sections. Some of these sections include:

  • Title: This section helps to tell the reader the content of a brief in a way that sticks to memory.
  • Executive summary: An executive summary includes a little overview of the problem and the advocated policy action.
  • Context or scope of problem: This section states the problem in clear terms and explains how much of the problem would be explored in the brief.
  • Policy alternatives: In this section, the current policy approach is studied and discussed, while other alternatives are put forward to the reader.
  • Policy recommendations: This section lays out all the detailed steps required to address the policy issue.
  • Appendices: This section contains extra support that could help your argument in the brief so that your readers could check out more information.
  • Consulted or recommended sources: This section contains a list of all the reliable sources you have used throughout your brief.  

Also, policy briefs employ graphs, charts, and other visual aids to make it easier to contain information within sections.

How to Identify Threats to Your Policy Brief

Every well-written policy brief is written to present solutions to problems using proposed policies from informed research. The problem research phase of the policy brief writing might sound easy, but it isn’t easy to research to do.

So how do you go about it?

Most times, the surface problem is not the main root problem. But, for example, if you identify a problem like children’s health problems. One good example of children’s health problems could be obesity, a growing problem in American schools. You can narrow it down further to find out what the root cause is. The root cause could be nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, and so on.

In this case, your policy solution could center around incentivizing exercise or gym classes in schools, introducing school lunch programs, introducing seminars that explain the necessity of proper nutrition and eating habits to parents who may not understand, and so on.

The primary key to identifying a problem for policy briefs is defining the general situation and finding the causal factors of the problem. When this is done, you can create policy briefs around how to solve those problems on the different levels of government.

Essential Writing Considerations for a Policy Brief

Following are the important points you should keep in mind while writing a policy brief:

Framing the issue

Understanding the problem is the first part of writing a policy brief, but now you must frame the issue so that you can deliver it to your reader and understand the problem and the need for a solution.

There are a few steps you should take to go about.

Define the problem

In simple, unambiguous terms, state the problem and why your reader should be interested in it. This serves as a point of reference for your reader throughout the policy brief. Of course, your reader can always go back to the original problem as they go through more complex and intricate details of the problem and solution in your brief.

Define the scope of the problem

Try to describe how comprehensive or how big the problem is. For example, how many people does it affect on a daily or yearly basis? Is it a local, statewide or international problem? Defining the scope of the problem can, to a large extent, help the reader create a workable image of the magnitude of the policy decision they are trying to make.

State the stakeholders

Who does the policy decision affect directly or indirectly? Try to make a list of all the various stakeholders a policy decision could affect. Do not focus only on the direct recipients. Instead, try to include every indirect stakeholder that may be involved in the process.

Having a clear understanding of everyone involved in the problem will help the reader of the policy brief accurately measure the size or magnitude of the problem.

Audience

All policy decisions must be created with a specific target audience in mind. Therefore, it is essential that you know your audience and communicates directly with them.

Some good practices to keep in mind when speaking to your audience include:

  • Realize that your audience is usually comprised of policymakers who are very busy and have no time for indirect jargon and regular policy influencer who may not understand such jargon
  • Try to make it clear on time why they should bother reading the brief. Why should the problem matter to them?
  • Do not focus solely on scientific or analytic research to explain why they should advocate for such policy changes. Instead, please focus on the cost implication and the impact it has on the stakeholders.

When you tailor your policy brief to the audience you want to read it, you can’t go far wrong.

Structure

The structure should be as follows:

  • The policy briefs should be broken into small sections with headings and subheadings, making them easy to glance through.
  • There should be an overview at the beginning of the briefing that outlines all the critical points of the briefing
  • Make your policy brief more appealing by using visual images, figures, and charts that are clear and easy to understand.

Content

The content of your policy brief is the central part of your entire brief. Therefore, make sure your brief is as clear and concise as possible. Also, you want to make your problem the central theme of the work so that your reader can always relate every complex graph, figure, image, or piece of scientific research to that problem.

You also want to make sure you have handy facts, figures, and charts that policymakers can use to judge the severity of any problem or the probability that a solution would work on it. Finally, work on the emotions of your readers. Paint pictures that are easy to digest and understand emotionally while using facts and figures to back them up. If there is any uncertainty, make sure you make it known.

Also, include your sources of information so that readers can easily find the research guiding your policy advocacy and give them more opportunity to explore the evidence further.

Ensure you get rid of emotive words and let the facts do the talking. Don’t try to draw your readers in with unnecessary persuasive and emotional words. Don’t assume your reader knows what you are talking about. Try to write in clear terms and remove all forms of acronyms and jargon. Also, ensure you show where there is consensus and an ongoing policy debate about the topic.

At the end of every policy brief, ensure to put down your contact details so that you can be contacted if need be.

How to Write a Policy Brief in a Template

Following are the two stages of writing a policy brief in a template:

Stage 1

Stage 1 has the following steps:

Create a working thesis statement

Your thesis statement encapsulates your paper’s main point, main idea, or central message. Therefore, no matter how short your policy brief is, it must have a working statement to guide every line, paragraph, and section of the brief.

For example:

An advocacy policy brief thesis statement will contain a way to tackle the issue raised in the brief. In contrast, an objective policy brief thesis statement will present the problem and the reason for using different approaches to tackle the problem.

Write a working draft based on thesis statement

Based on the thesis statement you have created, write out a working draft to guide you through writing the policy brief. Don’t focus too much on the brief structure; try to make a rough draft.

Use a reverse outline to focus your draft

Use your draft to find out the main point of every paragraph. When this is done, you can create an outline so that your draft is focused and your paragraphs flow logically from one point to another.

A reverse outline will help you with smooth transitions where necessary so that your brief is cohesive and not just many sections lumped together.

Write a summary statement to start off

Create a summary statement and place it on the cover of your brief or the first page of your brief if you don’t have a cover. A summary statement will summarize your thesis statement and show your reader the stance or position you are taking in your brief.

Your summary statement should be a paragraph of about two sentences stating precisely what you are proposing in the brief.

For example:

Suppose you are writing a brief about mercy killing (voluntary euthanasia) and why it should be legalized. In that case, your summary statement might look like this: “The severely sick wish to die in a way that preserves their autonomy. Voluntary euthanasia allows them to do this.”

Explain the vitality of the issue

Your brief introduction should clarify why your readers should spend their time reading the rest of the brief. This introduction is critical, especially if you are writing advocacy policy briefs to antagonistic audiences.

For example:

In a brief about why mercy killing should be legal, you can say “Most people struggle with illnesses that put them and their loved ones under serious strain. These people around us, humans like us, should be given the right to decide if they wish to cease living or not.”

Close with summary

After reading the brief, you should have a summary at the end of your brief and a simple call to action that tells your readers what you want them to do.

In the legalization of voluntary euthanasia, you can encourage lawmakers to raise and vote on a bill that supports the legalization or tell the reader to vote for lawmakers that support the legalization of voluntary euthanasia.

Stage 2

Stage 2 has the following steps:

Researching for a policy brief

You need to find all the information you need to make your policy brief. This includes objective academic studies or government data and statistics. These kinds of sources are good for increasing the credibility of your policy brief.

Focus on results and conclusions

The details of the research and the methodology used should stay with you rather than the methods undergone. Don’t transfer the methods of analysis used into your policy brief. Instead, try to focus on the results of the brief and how it affects your paper.

Don’t tell your readers how the research was done. Instead, tell them what the results of the research state and how it affects them personally.

Relate your findings globally

By relating your policy brief to the world at large, you increase the relevance of your work. Discuss the impact of the policy change you are trying to effect on the world globally.

For example:

Involuntary euthanasia, you can use numbers, graphs polls to show how people are dissatisfied with the current law and how people would like to get the opportunity to choose how they die.

Proofread carefully

Go through your brief carefully to ensure that it is free from all kinds of errors: grammatical, semantic, and incongruent statements. This is important as it makes your brief more reliable.

Free Templates

A policy brief template is usually a word processor document with all the sections of the policy brief spelled out. This makes it easy for you to write a policy brief without reinventing the wheel and creating something new. Instead, you can download a standard template and fill in the spaces to ready your policy brief. Whether you are writing a policy brief for an assignment or actual policymakers, policy brief templates make it easier to do the job. 

Use the policy brief template outlined above and tweak it to suit your specific need and target audience.

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    Conclusion

    A policy brief should be written with a clear structure, concise statements, and the audience in mind. Every good policy brief should be written to speak directly to the audience in a language they can easily understand and should also have a call to action that pushes people to act or think in a particular direction to influence policy.
    Remember that policymakers are busy people, so try to create a summary and an introduction to explain why your brief is worth reading. Finally, always edit and proofread your work so that it looks more reliable.

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