*With grace period to submit with no late penalty until August 17, 11:59p.m.
• Develop skills in moving from critical analysis of a policy issue / case, towards
considering concrete lessons or solutions for policy / practice;
• Develop skills in communicating key messages/findings to non-academic audiences,
such as policymakers or NGOs.
The Policy Brief will build directly on your Policy Background paper. The challenge is to
distill the main message and recommendations from the longer paper into a short, plain
language brief of approximately 1,000 words, roughly 2-pages single spaced (though it
might be 3 pages if you incorporate many photos or other visuals).
What is a Policy Brief?
A policy brief is a concise document that identifies an issue of concern to decision-makers,
explains the state of knowledge on the issue or case, and provides recommendations /
considerations for solving it.
Uh oh! I don’t think I have a specific policy recommendation… what do I do?
Do not worry. Policy Briefs can take different forms, depending on the issue, and your goal in
putting your research out there. Some of you will be studying a very specific policy case that
has concrete solutions for a clearly defined set of policy actors (e.g. let’s say you’re making
recommendations on water affordability to the municipal government of Detroit, or offering a
specific set of considerations for the Canadian government’s efforts to improve water on First
Some of you might be exploring a broader issue and seek to persuade a larger community of
actors to adopt a particular stance or position on your issue (e.g. water privatization in the
global South). This type of document is also often labeled a Policy Brief (though it might also
be called an Issue Brief).
Alternatively, a brief may offer considerations for practice in a particular area, e.g. lessons for
NGOs on how to advance gender equity in their participatory water management programs.
Sometimes this type of brief is also called a “Policy Brief”, though it can also carry the name
“Practice Brief” (your choice).
You should have an audience in mind when writing your brief, as this will shape your
message and the types of recommendations you make.
Policy Brief Structure
** Your brief should contain all of these components, and be divided with sub-headings. The
sub-titles you choose may use different names than the ones I’ve offered here**
Executive statement (2-3 sentence summary of your key findings / message). Usually
this appears at the top of the brief in bold font. You do not need to include the name
“Executive statement”. The statement is just there below the brief’s title
Introduction or “The Problem”
Approach and Results or “Findings”
Implications and Recommendations / Considerations**
**Sometimes the Recommendations and Conclusion go together**
Policy Brief Format / Style
Your brief should be:
• Approx. 1000 words (2-pages single spaced, or a bit more depending on your use of
• 12-point font
• Paragraph form, though point-form (bullets) can be used sparingly, e.g. the
Recommendations section might be in point-form
Other stylistic considerations:
• Use a punchy title that reflects the topic/message
• Write in plain language (avoid technical or academic jargon)
• Be concise, to the point. Include only essential information
• Aim to persuade – highlight the urgency of the problem +
focus on opportunities/benefits/solutions of taking action on
• GRAPHICS/VISUALS: Be creative! Feel free to use pictures,
graphs/charts, or other visuals to grab your reader’s
attention and make your brief look appealing
• You might also use other design features like “Call-out
boxes”. These are places where you include a particularly
impactful quotation or statistic from the brief in a textbox to
draw additional attention to it. See example here à
Sources and Bibliography
Unlike your Policy Background Paper, there is no set number of sources for the Policy Brief;
however, you are expected to incorporate insights from your sources. Information that comes
from secondary sources must be cited in APA format (in-text citations + bibliography at the
end of the brief).
Refer to the Policy Brief Workshop Slides for more guidelines for more tips on writing a
good Policy Brief. Good luck!