When compared to standard research papers, policy papers have a unique format. A policy paper, on the other hand, is written for a completely different audience. The policy paper, unlike the research paper, is not always addressed to an academic audience.
Most of the time, it is intended for a non-academic audience. They are intended for officials, businesses, organizations, and government agencies. Policy papers are used to diagnose specific issues and propose solutions.
As a result, they place a greater emphasis on prescriptive questions. Policy papers can be very persuasive as well. The author will always argue in order to persuade the audience to accept the solution or idea that he or she is proposing. This is why it is critical that you provide evidence in support of the position you are taking. We can state unequivocally that knowing how to write a research paper does not imply knowing how to write a policy paper. This article will teach you how to write a policy paper.
The Parts of A Policy Paper
There are several approaches to writing a policy report. The only thing that all policy papers have in common is their content. Every policy paper must have several key components. Understanding these components is critical while learning how to write a policy document. An explanation of the context and importance/value of the problem, a discussion of the policy options available, and policy recommendations are the three fundamental components.
When conducting research, there are a few key questions that will keep you on course. You must determine who your target audience is. You should also ask and comprehend the audience’s present policy perspective, and then map out the policy questions you will address in the policy paper. Consider the key stakeholders in the policy you intend to address.
Determine the policy options and how practical they are. Consider the criteria you will use to select the optimal policy as well as the evidence that will support the complete proposition. Failure to consider any of these will result in a major blunder, demonstrating that you do not know how to write a proper policy document.
Policy Paper Writing Format
There must be a consistent format, just like every other paper prepared anywhere in the world. Though a policy paper is not written for an academic audience, it is nonetheless an academic work and must adhere to academic paper writing guidelines.
To understand how to create a policy document, you must first recognize that you are writing something akin to a decision memorandum. This is written in a different tense from the research papers that are merely theoretically relevant. You must write in the present or future tense, and the paper’s conclusion must be highly practical. Make sure you conduct extensive study on the subject and explain your findings using detailed endnotes.
Every good policy report should begin with a brief and to-the-point introduction or background. A problem statement might be included in the paper as a distinct section or at the end of the introduction. This must specify the issue for which you are looking for a solution.
This is followed by the goals of the country, coalition, corporation, or organ seeking a solution. Ascertain if the policy paper’s objectives are aligned. The choices sector describes the policy options that can be considered. If feasible, try to make it up to three possibilities. The options are then evaluated.
This is where you explain how each alternative contributes to achieving the given objective or goal, as well as how much it will cost to implement the option. Consider the positive and negative aspects in relation to the consequences of each. Following the study of the possibilities, the suggestions are made.
If your policy paper lacks any of these elements, you are not writing a proper policy document. It is assumed that if you do not know how to write a policy paper, you cannot suggest any feasible and workable policy. In the recommendation section, choose the best option and explain why you believe it is the best. The recommendation should be practical and self-contained. Following that, describe the policy’s shortcomings in the following section, then conclude with the cost advantages of implementing the program.
Structure of a Policy Paper
- The Executive Summary.
You are now ready to build your white paper or briefing book and compose the Executive Summary once you have selected your dominant recommendation/s or findings. The structure of the paper or briefing book should build toward your recommendations rather than developing the problem or research’s chronology.
As a structuring method, writing a draft of the Executive Summary first can be beneficial. Of course, you will return to it at the end of the writing process to revise it in accordance with your final analysis.
The Executive Summary is the most significant component of every policy paper, but it is also the most hardest to write. However, there are simple methods that will assist in transforming complex concepts into brief and effective arguments that will attract the attention of a busy reader.
For example, you will need to briefly outline the present policy scenario, offer immediate benefits and cons of your reasons for change, and state your recommendation/s or findings plainly. The Executive Summary acts as both a beginning point and a conclusion for the policy paper.
It communicates your essential recommendations by using your authority as a researcher or expert in your field. It not only summarizes your main arguments for the busy reader, but it also underlines your recommendations in a memorable way to lead future discussions. Consider it through the eyes of your decision-maker:
What essential points will help your decision maker recall and comprehend your study and recommendations? The executive summary should be no more than 5% of the total length of the paper, therefore a 100-page white paper might have a 5-page executive summary. This is only a guideline. Your executive summary should be as long as necessary to cover all of your main ideas.
- Introduction (and Background)
These are occasionally separated into two sections, with the introduction devoted to the paper’s broad goals and underlying reasons and the background allowing for a more thorough discussion of the historical justification and context for the topic.
They are sometimes combined to indicate the backdrop for the ultimate aim, the decision to do study on the topic, or the overall picture for the research you are conducting. This is also a good place to highlight your theory of transformation.
Briefly describe your process. Appendices should contain the micro data, survey questions, and precise specifics for your rationale.
- Literature Review
In this section, you should provide a more in-depth description of the state of the academic work or thought that has already been done on the topic, and you should position your own study within the framework of questions that have not yet been answered. How does your study or initiative fit within the larger context of previous research or academic perceptions on the topic? What scholarly benefits does your work provide?
- Policy Options or Policy Context
It is possible that, depending on the focus of your research, you will need to investigate both the benefits and drawbacks of the various policy choices that are available. You should always describe the current state of policy, including ongoing intervention initiatives.
- Analysis of Findings or Evidence
This is your original research. Use descriptive headers and subheadings to help the reader follow and understand your argument’s logic and flow.
- Case Studies and Best Practices
If your conclusions are based on original case studies, list the names of those case studies at the end of each individual case study, followed by “Lessons Learned.” Be mindful that “Best Practices” necessitate thorough analysis and do not follow logically from Lessons Learned. If your case study analysis is lengthy, you could move the entire details to Annexes and then summarize each with “Lessons Learned” (and, if applicable, “Best Practices”) in the report text.
- Policy Options and Recommendations
Categorize these by specific subheaders. In certain policy papers, the findings and suggestions are combined, with the recommendations deriving directly from specific findings.
Most, on the other hand, give all findings in a single section, followed by policy choices and recommendations. To be clear, it is fine if your analysis stops short of comprehensive recommendations as long as you clearly set out the significance for your evidence analysis.
- Implementation and Next Steps
Some policy documents incorporate implementation into their recommendations or subsequent actions. Others divide this section into separate sections to discuss the specific processes of how and when to implement the advice.
If there are major risks, expenses, or hurdles to implementation, you should address them in the section that explains the benefits and drawbacks of the policy recommendation/s. This section should be devoted to implementation mechanics. Again, your paper may stop short of building implementation, but you might include it in the “Next Steps” section.”
Return to the larger picture or the purpose of your analysis here:
What is the purpose of your analysis or your policy recommendation(s)? What if the decision-maker does not act on your study or follow through on your recommendation? What happens if she does? While you do not want to use rhetoric, this is your chance to remind your reader of the significance of your analysis.
In most cases, they will include of the survey data and questions, charts and graphs, as well as the specifics of case studies that underpin your research.
Policy papers written for professionals may not include references to their sources, but all academic papers are required to include a comprehensive bibliography in addition to references that are fully referenced and footnoted. On the other hand, the majority of white papers do not often include footnotes and endnotes.
Tips for Writing Executive Summary for Policy Paper
1. Have you addressed all of the critical aspects in your argument? Do you prepare your readers for the analysis that follows? In contrast, would the reader be fully prepared to analyze your point, testify on the problem, or move forward with a policy debate if this was all she had to refresh her memory after reading your comprehensive analysis?
2. Is there a brief, clear storyline that outlines the big picture?
3. How well do you summarize the sections that follow? Is the logic shown by the structure of those sections appropriate for your intended audience? Have you framed the issues through the eyes of important stakeholders, senior decision-makers, or your intended audience?
4. How detailed is the background information? Avoid wasting space on the background.
5. Are problems well defined in terms of the likely reader(s)? Are existing and proposed laws, regulations, and ongoing policy actions included, if applicable?
6. Do you indicate the trade-offs involved when offering policy options? Are all problems paired with viable remedies or change guidelines? Is the analysis and explanation of advantages and drawbacks sound?
7. Are the recommendations and/or results reasonable, clear, and prioritized logically?
8. Do you suggest a framework for future work on the issue?
9. Is the overall presentation and writing of professional quality? Do you avoid using too many words?
How to Make Your Policy Paper More Effective
You can choose any issue and write a policy paper about it. You can argue that any of the policy options is the best, but if you do not follow the advice below, your policy paper will be ineffective, and you will not have learned how to write a professional policy paper.
A public policy’s primary duty is to provide a broad framework of values and ideas from which an organ can make judgments and pursue actions or inactions on a specific topic. Every public policy must involve a commanding action.
It must be utilized to respond to real-world issues. It must strive toward a goal, and it must recommend specific steps to be taken, as well as the decision to take such measures or not.
Characteristics of A Policy Paper
If you truly understand how to produce an ideal policy paper, you must include these elements. Each policy paper must be of public interest, which means that it must aim to address a common interest of the majority of the population rather than a few.
A good policy document must be effective in terms of stating how the policy will achieve its objectives. It must be efficient by outlining how to use resources wisely in implementing the policy and obtaining the desired results.
It must also be consistent with the organ’s other goals and strategies in the big picture. Remember that the policy must also be equitable, ensuring justice and fairness to all members of society.
A good policy must reflect social values such as privacy, security, freedom, and patriotism. When learning how to write a policy paper, keep in mind that each paper is expected to have persuasive and complete arguments in order to explain all of the policy proposals it is presenting. The goal is for the audience to use the recommendations as a decision-making tool and a drive for action.
Organizing Your Policy Paper
Policy papers are professional and practical in character, and their length might vary. Following thorough analysis, each must provide numerous recommendations. The research problem is the primary emphasis of a properly prepared policy paper.
If yours deviates from this, it demonstrates that you do not understand how to write a policy document. The structure must be simple and straightforward. It must be written with the presumption that the reader is unfamiliar with the topic and has limited time to research it.
However, unlike a typical research report, this may not seek out to produce or uncover new knowledge or offer something new to the subject. However, it is mostly focused on giving a certain group of audience with the rationale for adopting a given policy and taking a specific action.
Your article must be written with the goal of convincing your readers of the accuracy of your analysis and the validity of your suggestions. Because it will be used for decision making, it must be written in a professional manner to prevent damaging its credibility.
Always polish your policy paper and make it as simple to read and understand as possible. Jargons will not be used in your policy document if you know how to write one. Make it an emotional piece.
A solid policy document must also be evidence-based. This is not a debate paper, thus your proposals must be based on solid evidence about the existence of the problem and the cost of implementing the recommended strategy.
Every policy document must be understandable, which means it must be written in short, unambiguous phrases with an explicit and straightforward format. Your memo must be written in a presentation manner that is simple to read and understand. Make good headings and subheadings and decorate your work with charts, figures, lists, and a table of contents.
The suggestions must also be viable. They must be based on actual events rather than projected or future scenarios. Your paper must include a clear strategy for determining whether or not the recommendations were successful. This is how you draft a suitable policy document.
Proofreading Your Policy Paper
You must ensure that your policy paper is error-free. Look for and eliminate frequent flaws that depict you as someone who does not know how to write a policy paper.
- Have you considered the unforeseen effects of the implementation?
- Make sure your work is prepared to anticipate reader queries by avoiding confusing phrases, open-ended questions, and declarative assertions.
- Reduce the amount of subjective reasoning in your work by appropriately labeling your figures, tables, graphs, and charts.
Sample Policy Paper
Prize-winning policy analysis thesis, Harvard Kennedy School: Mamie Marcus (2007), Immigrant Voters in Massachusetts: Implications for Political Parties.
This policy analysis paper first highlights the findings, building on them for the subsequent recommendations. It is far simpler in style, structure, and argument than a Copyright Office white paper, but it offers a good starting point for understanding the structure of a standard white paper.
Prize-winning policy analysis thesis, Harvard Kennedy School: Agustina Schijman and Guadalupe Dorna, From Vulnerable Mountaineers to Safe Climbers (2012)
This policy paper offers trenchant insight on the decline of the middle class in Argentina, with actionable recommendations for the government. Following the Introduction, the paper defines its key terms and describes its methodology. It states clear motivations for the research, laid out as goals or objectives. At each step, the authors never lose sight of the practical and actionable nature of their research and recommendations.