Some Thoughts on Writing a Policy Paper
June 9, 2022
A policy paper is analytical, not descriptive. It does not simply offer facts or provide a description of events; rather it uses facts and descriptions to evaluate policies, to develop questions for analysis, to provide evidence for the answers to these questions, and to make recommendations for actions.
- Define the problem/issue you are examining.
What is the evidence of the problem/issue?
What is its scope?
Why is it significant? (i.e. why should we care about it?)
What are the consequences of not dealing with the issue?
What has been done about it?
- Include only as much background or descriptive material as is necessary for the reader to follow your paper. You are not writing a history paper or an article for an encyclopedia. If a fact or observation does not advance the flow of the paper, leave it out. (The test is whether it would matter if the reader skipped the information.)
- Are there models for possible solutions to be found in the experience of other jurisdictions (cities, states, countries) or in the proposals of researchers? What are the pros and cons of these models?
- When making a recommendation, explain why you chose the approach. Is it clear how it can be implemented, how it will help resolve the problem, and what are the drawbacks or criticisms might be?
- Beyond all else, think logically and write clearly and succinctly.