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
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.
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.
The audience of a policy brief is a non-specialist policy-maker. Therefore, you should assume you are writing to a general audience.
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.
Think of your policy brief as having two main parts: an overview and a main body.
- clearly communicate the point of the brief
- provides the main points of the brief. A reader should be able to understand the basic overview of the brief from reading only this.
- summarizes the recommendations for actions, based on the evidence you provide in the body of the brief.
- introduces the issue and communicates both the importance of the problem and the necessity of policy action
- analyzes the problem in greater detail, identifying its effects and causes
- discusses the current policy on the matter
- presents policy options, including advantages and disadvantages of each
- presents the recommended option in more detail
- 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.
- lists the sources you relied on as you prepared the brief.