A policy brief is a concise summary of a particular issue that is designed to help policy makers come to a decision. It consolidates research on the context, causes, stakeholders, scope, and impact of that issue and then makes a recommendation.

Tip: Key qualities of a policy brief: accessible, persuasive, and informed

Purpose

The purpose of a policy brief is to present the practical implications of various different options concerning your issue. It should recommend the most feasible option to policy makers based on research.

Goal

The ultimate goal of a policy brief is to prompt action at the policy level. To do this, you must:

  • provide background information so the reader understands the problem.
  • convince the reader that the problem is urgent and must be addressed.
  • provide alternative solutions and evidence to support them.
  • spur the reader to make a decision.

Audience

The audience of a policy brief is a non-specialist policy-maker. Therefore, you should assume you are writing to a general audience.

Language

The language in a policy brief should be professional and formal, but also reader-friendly. Be sure to explain specialized terms so that a general audience can understand them.

What do policy makers want to know?

Your policy brief should clearly communicate:

  • why the audience should care about this issue
  • your recommendations
  • why the suggested action should be followed

Policy briefs can be classified as either advocacy briefs or objective briefs. Advocacy briefs argue in favour of one particular course of action. Objective briefs present multiple courses of action in an unbiased manner and allow the policy maker to decide.

Sections

Think of your policy brief as having two main parts: an overview and a main body.

Overview

Title

  • clearly communicate the point of the brief

Executive Summary

  • provides the main points of the brief. A reader should be able to understand the basic overview of the brief from reading only this.

Recommendations

  • summarizes the recommendations for actions, based on the evidence you provide in the body of the brief.

Main Body

Introduction

  • introduces the issue and communicates both the importance of the problem and the necessity of policy action

Body

  • analyzes the problem in greater detail, identifying its effects and causes
  • discusses¬†the current policy on the matter

Policy implications

  • presents policy options, including advantages and disadvantages of each
  • presents the recommended option in more detail

Conclusion

  • emphasizes the importance of the problem and the particular recommendation you provided. This section is not always required, so check your assignment guidelines or ask your professor.

References

  • lists the sources you relied on as you prepared the brief.