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Policy Brief Writing Tips

This module will help you get better acquainted with what policy writing is for, how it can be formatted, and what makes a good policy submission.

Policy Writing

Your policy submission can take many different forms from a policy brief to an op-ed. Regardless of how you chose to write or format your policy submissions, there a few best practices that hold true for each of them. If you are fairly new to policy writing, we’d recommend going with a policy brief, as they’re fairly easy to wrap your head around. That being said, this module will help you get better acquainted with what policy writing is for, how it can be formatted, and what makes a good policy submission.



Please keep in mind that the following applies to policy briefs. Other policy formats, however similar, have their own unique formatting and requirements so if you choose something other than the policy brief, make sure you research what those entail.

A Quick Intro to Policy Writing



Policy briefs are meant to be targeted to a non-specialized audience, but your recommendations and policies should still be backed by proper research.

It should be in clear language, meaning that you should avoid using jargon whenever you can. You should be able to make clear links between the research you present, the recommendations, and the problem(s).

Establish Your Purpose Before Getting Started on Policy Writing



First things first, you need to settle on the purpose of the policy. The main theme of the brief should be whichever track you and your team are focussing on but the brief should inform readers about the particular issue you are tackling. We advise you to draft out your purpose first and throughout the policy writing process, keep on referring back to it to make sure you are staying on track.



Format

  • 1,500-word limit. Try not to exceed two pages

  • Font size 12, using a clear and easy to read font

  • Use titles and headers to better organize your ideas

  • You may include sidebars containing extra detail for the reader to better understand the topic. They should be concise and action-oriented

  • Include lists if need be. These should only be seven bullet points at most

  • Include all of your team members’ names along with a descriptive title

  • Stay on topic. Avoid veering off from your purpose and tangents

  • Citations and appendices (does not count towards your overall word count)

  • Images, visuals, graphs, etc should all be relevant and need appropriate captions

The Content

The Executive Summary

You can think of the executive summary as a hook or a thesis. It should be engaging and summarize your policy brief, making your arguments clear.

Although it is not mandatory, it is recommended that you leave the executive summary until the end after you have all of your other content written out. This will make it significantly easier to summarize everything.



The Introduction

The introduction should give the readers the overall framework of your policy brief. Make sure you go over the problem and its significance as well as all the relevant points supporting your recommendations and arguments.



Your Solution/Recommendations

This is the section where all of your research into your topic pays off. In this section, you will be going over. It should start off by going further in-depth into your problem. Make sure to include numbers and statistics, really try to drive home the scale of the issue.

Then, you will be presenting your solutions and recommendations. The value of your recommendations, their impact, and their validity will be determined by research and evidence. Tell us how and why this will help alleviate the problem, and back it up. Make sure it’s not just symbolism, it needs substance.



Limitations

What are some of the pitfalls or limitations of your recommendations? What infrastructure needs to be put in place in the future to address these? How big of an effect will these have?



Conclusion

The conclusion should summarize every aspect of your policy brief. Reiterate the problem and its significance, the numbers and statistics, and every aspect of your recommendation including its cons.



Citations and Appendices

You may choose any style you wish for this section, just ensure that it remains consistent throughout the policy brief.





Once you have your policy brief all written up, make sure you spend some time revising it, correcting some of its imperfections to make it the best it could be. This should go without saying but your policy brief should be YOURS, meaning that there is zero-tolerance for plagiarism.


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Hack+Policy Foundation (S0074073) is incorporated under the Societies Act of British Columbia, Canada. Copyright © 2021 Hack+Policy Foundation. All rights reserved.

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