Policy Brief Paper

A policy brief should present a concise summary of information that can help readers understand, and likely make decisions about, issues or government policies. Policy briefs may give objective summaries of relevant research, suggest possible policy options, or argue for specific courses of action. A policy brief is analytic in nature and allows the author to remain objective even if the evidence appears persuasive.   An effective policy brief should propose a solution to a well-defined problem that can be addressed at the level of policy. This may take some work to think of a well-defined, specific problem that is open to a policy action.


The purpose of this assignment is to have an opportunity to develop a two-page Policy Brief. The paper is to contain a title page and a reference page (not counted toward the two page maximum). It should follow basic APA formatting. However, the introduction and summary sections of a typical APA paper are omitted in the Policy Brief paper. The brief should be clear, concise, and employ evidence. The information should be organized effectively with the use of headings.

Your policy brief should consist of:

1. Title Page: The title is the first part of a paper readers see and it begins the process of communicating the message contained in the policy paper. An effective title of a paper should give readers a quick overview of the subject and problem addressed in the policy paper. A reader may use the title in deciding whether to read the paper or not. As a general rule, avoid titles in excess of eight (8) words.

2.  Executive Summary: This section is often one to two paragraphs long; it includes an overview of the problem and the proposed policy action. The executive summary aims to capture the interest of the reader to review the entire document. However, the main function of the executive summary is to satisfy the needs of those readers (especially decision-makers) who will not read the entire paper and readers whose main interest is in the key proposed policy recommendations. The executive summary represents the entire policy brief by providing a synopsis of all critical parts and findings.

3. Background and Scope of Problem: This section communicates the importance of the problem and aims to convince the reader of the necessity of policy action. It should be fair and accurate while convincing the reader why the policy action proposed in the brief is the most desirable.

This section sets the tone by presenting the context for the threat or issue and links this to the specific focus of the policy brief paper. Describe the population, setting and the nature of the communities that are the objective of your policy issue. Make sure the reader understands “who, what, and where” your policy proposal targets. This section should demonstrate that an urgent need/threat exists and that your paper is worth reading because it will offer possible solutions. Include a statement about the purpose of your policy paper. Also include a brief overview of how/where you obtained your data and/or kinds of resources used. This may be limited to describing the sources of data you used to construct your recommendations

This section should identify, define and elaborate the nature of the threat or issue. This includes the background information about the history of the threat/issue, its causes, who is affected, descriptions of previous policies aimed at addressing the issue, and the outcomes of implementing those historical policies (positive and negative). It should also include a detailed and convincing description of the actual status of the issue (the extent and impact of the problem now, who is currently affected, the current policy and its successes and failures).

4. Position Statement / Policy Recommendations: This section contains the most detailed explanation of the concrete steps to be taken to address the policy issue. This is best done in a bulleted format, identifying the specific actions being recommended. This section outlines, evaluates and compares the possible policy alternatives. Focus on strategic policy making. Present all the approaches or strategies that you think are potentially useful for addressing the issue. Presenting a range of options helps you build a comprehensive and convincing case – that is, it strengthens your final position because it shows that you have carefully considered key alternatives. The focus is on evaluating how each option compares in regard to the issue and the likelihood of success. On the basis of this evidence an argument is made for the policy recommendation.

5. References: List of sources used in APA format.

Considerations in Writing Policy Brief:

1. Title of the Brief: Good titles quickly and clearly communicate the contents of the brief

2. Language:  Policy briefs are usually created for the general reader or policy maker who has a stake/interest in the issue that you’re discussing. Since, clear language is important in policy briefs, it is important not to use medical jargon. Use direct language that a non-specialist reader would be more likely to understand and be sure to quickly and clearly specialized terminology. Avoid abbreviations.

3. Headings & Sections: Policy briefs usually use a number of headings and have relatively short sections

4. Reference Page:  The reference page should contain scholarly and reliable sources in APA format that you have used throughout your brief to guide your policy discussion and recommendations. A minimum a four (4) references are to be used. One citation will be the bill or statute that is the focus of your policy brief, two citations must be peer reviewed, scholarly articles from a library database (CINAHL, PubMed, Find-It, etc.) and the last reference must be from a reputable resource of your choice supporting your position.

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