policy brief

 Final Brief due by 5:00pm, 12/15
 Overview
In this assignment, you will craft a 2-4 page professional policy brief on a public policy topic of your choice. You will also present your policy brief to the class during a time period reserved for policy brief presentations at the end of the semester. The preferred method of producing this assignment is for each student to work in a group of 3-4 students total on a single policy topic; those students who chose unique policy topics and/or prefer to submit sole-authored work can request to work alone.

Step 1: Learn the basics of how to write a policy brief

A policy brief is a short (typically 2-4 pages) document that provides an audience of policymakers with the essential information that they need to know to understand a contemporary policy problem and the primary policy alternatives that seem to be the most feasible, effective and efficient to address the problem.
There are two basic types of short policy briefs: objective and advocacy. You are charged in this assignment with writing an objective policy brief, which is objective in the sense that it based on policy analysis rather than policy advocacy. This objective brief will include a recommendation for action based on the group’s evaluation of the three alternatives presented in the brief. An advocacy brief is similar except that it focuses on advocating for the organization’s favored policy option rather than weighing the balance of benefits and drawbacks of possible options and then making a recommendation based on that evaluation. Thus, gaining experience with an objective brief will prepare you to write an advocacy brief in your future career.
Consult these two sources for instructions about how to write a policy brief and the difference between an objective policy brief and an advocacy policy brief.

The University of North Carolina Writing Center how to write a policy brief (Links to an external site.)
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (fao.org (Links to an external site.)) instructions (Links to an external site.) for policy briefs.

These links provide an example of an advocacy brief and an objective (policy analysis) brief (additional examples will be discussed in class)

Advocacy policy brief: OECD, Policy Paths for Tackling Climate Change (Links to an external site.),
Objective policy brief: Indiana University Public Policy Institute, Evaluation of Indianapolis’ Mobile Crisis Assistance Team (Links to an external site.) 
Objective policy brief: Environmental Law Institute, Indoor Air Quality in Nail Salons (Links to an external site.)
Objective policy memo (undergraduate-level), Stanford University Federal Mandate for Infertility Treatment Coverage by Providers (Links to an external site.)

Step 2: Choose a policy area and define a contemporary policy problem within that policy area. The policy problem and evidence for it should be clear enough to be presented in the “What is the issue?” section of your policy brief.

Select a policy area of interest to you, for example criminal justice policy. Within that policy area, choose a specific policy problem that is narrow enough to cover in a 2-4 page brief, for example, bail reform (Links to an external site.). Clearly define the policy problem in a way that policymakers can see how it is a problem and why it is important that policymakers act through lawmaking, regulations or guidelines to address it.

Step 3: Perform research about the problem and what kinds of policy alternatives have been proposed to address the problem

Research will require you to use the HSU Library’sLinks to an external site. databases to find reliable information. A good source to begin with is CQ Researcher. On the library’s main page click on Search & Locate and then Articles & Databases and then on Databases A-Z. Scroll down to “C” in the list and you will see a link to CQ Researcher. You can search CQ Researcher by policy area to see if any policy reports have been published about your policy problem. If your topic falls within the environmental policy domain, the Environmental Science SubjectLinks to an external site. research guide is helpful. Remember that once you have chosen your topic, you can consult with an HSU librarianLinks to an external site. on how best to research your topic. Librarians staff the reference desk where you can drop-in, or you can make an appointment to consult with a subject librarian.
Outside of the Library’s resources, PolicyArchive (Links to an external site.) is an independent non-partisan Web site that archives policy reports from different organizations; it is a good “first stop” to get a sense of what kinds of reports are out there regarding your topic area. Think tanks, which are organized groups of scholars and advocates thinking and publishing about contemporary policy issues, regularly offer downloadable versions of their reports. Harvard Kennedy School of Government has a think tank search page (Links to an external site.), which provides links to many prominent think tanks. If your policy area falls under California policy, the Public Policy Institute of California (Links to an external site.) offers many downloadable reports. If your policy area is mainly focused on at the state level but branches across states, the National Conference of State Legislatures (Links to an external site.) offers accessible research reports on a variety of state policy topics. If your policy problem is mainly addressed at the national level, you should consider consulting a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. These are reports that have been produced in response to members of Congress asking for a briefing on a specific policy issue; you can search for different report topics here (Links to an external site.).
I can also help to find and vet resources on your policy topic, but to ensure that I will have time to help you, you must start early in the semester in your research process. First, you should try your best to find some reliable policy sources on your topic and then consult me in office hours or after class to review those sources and potentially help you to find additional sources.
You must use at least five solid, substantive sources, such as policy reports or major investigations of the issue in the press, to provide information for your policy brief. These sources should be fully cited in a references section at the end of the brief. Chicago style (Links to an external site.) or APA style (Links to an external site.) work well as citation styles for these briefs.

Step 4: In a “current proposals” section present three of the most popular, successful and/or innovative policy alternatives that have been proposed (or already put into place) to address the policy problem.

Typically there are several policy alternatives being considered by policymakers across the U.S. to address a specific policy problem (or the world if the public policy problem is global). In this section of the brief, briefly describe three of those alternatives and present advantages and disadvantages of each.

Step 5: In a recommendations section, make a recommendation about which policy alternative (or combination of alternatives) seems to be the most feasible, effective and efficient choice for policymakers to address the policy problem. 

Within this section of the policy brief, include a brief summary and recommendation (no more than five sentences, as you will not have much space to go into detail). The recommendation should make sense to the reader based on what you have described as the advantages and disadvantages of each policy alternative. Typically one policy alternative cannot address the entirety of the policy problem. If that is the case with your policy problem, acknowledge that the option you recommend is a good start to addressing certain parts of the problem. In your presentation, be prepared to provide a more in-depth explanation for your recommendation.

Step 6: After you write the basic text for the policy brief, find a policy brief online whose format you think works for your brief and try to copy it.

Visualize how you would like the text to be presented and if you want to include any infographics. For example, use a graphic design site like Canva (Links to an external site.) – or Piktochart (Links to an external site.) – to brainstorm and design an infographic or other image-based presentation of key information.

Step 7: Don’t forget the title

Policy briefs should have a title that clearly gives the audience a sense of what the issue is and engages interest in it. An example of a title is “Civil bail as punishment: Why some low-income people can’t avoid imprisonment”.
Grades
Grades for this assignment will be based on the quality of the completed brief (20% of the course final grade) and the presentation (5% of course grade). If the assignment is completed as part of a group project, then the contribution of each member of the group will be rated by the other members in a feedback form, and this feedback will be taken into account when assigning grades to the individual members of the group. In addition, the group should keep track of how and when it collaborated on the project to use as evidence in grading. For example, the group should document its meetings (when the group met, for how long and who attended) and what was discussed and decided in each meeting. Groups can use the “Collaborations” feature in the course Canvas site to communicate regarding the project and document progress.
High quality briefs will be precise (no more than 4 pages) and follow the steps outlined in these instructions carefully. The information presented in the briefs will be reliable and well-sourced, and will help the potential policymaker audience to make a decision about how to act to address the policy problem. The graphic layout of the brief should mirror a real brief—the graphics do not need to be fancy, but the brief should have some color (with contrast), some graphical borders within the document to delineate sections, and some figure, table, graph or other infographic illustration of information. Save the final version of the brief as a .pdf and upload to Canvas for grading by the due date and time.
 During the presentation, the group or individual will present the brief to the class (it will be projected on the classroom screen). These presentations will be about 10 minutes each, so the presenter(s) should be prepared to explain the information presented in each section of the brief in more detail that what is captured in the brief itself, especially in anticipation of the questions that might be posed by the audience.

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