• About Waterloo
  • Faculties & academics
  • Offices & services
  • Support Waterloo

Policy Brief

Timeline. Picture of a clock.

What is a policy brief?

A policy brief is a succinctly written document about a particular issue. It consolidates research on the context, causes, stakeholders, and impact of a situation or problem. A policy brief is designed to help decision/policy makers by presenting policy options and recommendations. Not all policy briefs have the same objectives; some advocate for one policy option, while some recommend a number of options to choose from. Check your assignment to make sure you are approaching yours correctly.

Length and tone:

A policy brief is typically 4-6 pages. The tone is professional (rather than academic) with clear explanations that are free of jargon.

Target audience:

Readers are typically policy makers from fields such as education, environment, politics, public health, or social work. Those who read policy briefs are invested in the issue but may not have in-depth knowledge of the topic. They are interested in getting the writer's insights and recommendations that are based on current evidence.

A. Understand your assignment

Determine exactly what the assignment is asking you to do. Read the assignment carefully to determine the purpose, audience, scope, format, and length. For help, see Understanding your assignment .

Policy briefs can take various forms. For ideas and inspiration see these examples of policy briefs produced by different organizations.

B.  Download the policy brief template

C. Familiarize yourself with the issue

Using traditional journalistic questions (who, what, where, when, why) can help you focus on aspects that will be the focus of your policy brief.  

A. Design your research strategy

List terms/concepts associated with your policy issue. Isolate the main concepts. These are the terms you will enter into the library catalogue and databases to identify relevant books, journal and newspaper articles, and various types of reports. For more information on creating a strategy, see Effective research strategies (PDF) and contact the  librarian for your subject .

B. Find and evaluate sources

The sources you choose must be relevant and current. You need to make sure you are using academically sound sources such as peer-reviewed books and journal articles, but also sources such as government information, policy institute (think tank) documents, and material that relays the voice of the groups or people impacted by the issue, such as those who are marginalized or mistreated in some way.

Not all sources are equally relevant or truthfully representative. See  Evaluating information sources  for help discerning what will add real value to your assignment.

C. Select and organize what you've found

Gather your information and keep careful track of your sources as you go along. For help with this, see  Conducting research and note taking (PDF) .

Use your policy brief outline (retrieved in Step 1B) to fill in the sections of your policy brief with rough ideas you generate. Point form is fine. The following questions can help guide this work. Even though the executive summary comes at the beginning, notice that it makes more sense to do it at the end.

A: Who do you have to convince?

(Knowing this will influence how your write about the issue and layout the evidence.)

B: Problem statement

C: Stakeholders

D: Policy options

E: Recommendations

F: Sources consulted

G: Executive summary

Time to get writing! A first draft is an attempt to get ideas down on paper. It's okay if your ideas aren't completely formed yet. Let go of the need for perfection and write quickly. You can revise later.

For additional help, see  Writing a first draft (PDF) .

A: Evaluate your first draft and conduct additional research as needed

Determine if there are any gaps in your draft. Do you have enough evidence to support your arguments? If you don't, you should conduct further research.

B: Revise your draft

Print out your brief and work from a hard copy. Read it carefully and look for higher-order problems first, such as organization, structure, evidence, and analysis. For help, check out these  tips for revision .

C: Evaluate your second draft and rewrite as needed

Narrow your focus to paragraph-level issues such as sentence flow and transitions. For help with this, see Transition words .

D: Proofread the final version of your brief

Last step! Read carefully to catch small errors. Here are some Proofreading strategies . Also, take time to make sure your brief adheres to the conventions of the style guide you are using or your instructor's requirements. Think about titles, margins, and page numbers. Is a cover sheet required?

Your list of sources should contain key items you used to write your brief. Follow the citation style guide recommended in your assignment or by your instructor. For help, take a look at the citation and style guides on the Library's website. Using reference management software  can also help you manage your citations as you write. Use tools such as RefWorks and Write-N-Cite for building your bibliography.


Briefing Notes and Writing for Government

Briefing Notes - Additional Resources

Your Librarian

Profile Photo

How to Write a Briefing Brief (South Africa)

Best Bets - How to Write a Briefing Note

Briefing Notes - Style Guides

Creative Commons License

Visit our Research Matters blog for weekly posts from the homelessness sector here


how to write a policy brief canada

Homelessness 101

Ending Homelessness

Priority Populations

Teacher Resources

Poverty Hub

Methodology, knowledge mobilization, program evaluation.

Best, Promising & Emerging Practices

Monitoring Progress

British Columbia

New brunswick, newfoundland and labrador, northwest territories, nova scotia, prince edward island, saskatchewan, yukon territory.

Accommodations & Supports

Systems Integration

Engaging Clients

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Homeless Hub

Homelessness Learning Hub

Hub Solutions

Making the Shift

Systems Planning Collective

Toronto Centre of Excellence

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is the largest national research institute devoted to homelessness in Canada. The COH is the curator of the Homeless Hub.

So, you’ve decided to write a policy brief but are left thinking, “where do I begin?”. Policy briefs are helpful tools for ensuring that your research has the most impact. They shape opinions and influence decision-makers to change the way that they approach an issue. Policy briefs can be particularly helpful when approaching a complex issue like homelessness, where changes tend to happen more slowly. This is because they provide the government and other decision-makers with the necessary information and confidence to adopt new approaches.

1 - What is a Policy Brief?.mp4 from The Homeless Hub on Vimeo .

Before you start writing, you must first determine who your audience is. Ask yourself:

“If you want to change minds, don’t produce a policy brief that just focuses on criticizing the Government for what it's doing…” - Stephen Gaetz, President and CEO of  the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Now that you understand your audience, there is one more thing you need to do before you begin: create a “roadmap”. 

A policy brief is very much like a research paper - both require a logical narrative arc. The writer needs to tell a stor y, and take the reader on a journey. You must begin with a broad idea: what is the problem and why is it so bad? Then, shift toward your proposed solutions to the problem. Not only are you providing hope that there is a solution that will yield better results, but you are providing the reader with a concrete path forward based on evidence. 

The solutions you develop will be written in the “recommendations” section of the policy brief.  In order to have the largest impact, your recommendations should be targeted, specific, and concrete. 

Congrats - you are ready to write your policy brief. However, you can’t forget about timing! When you release your policy brief is equally important to what is written within it if you are aiming for large-scale change. Ideally, you want to link the launch of your policy brief with the release of a policy on a similar/related topic. Another good strategy is to release your brief when peoples’ minds are on that subject. For example, if you are writing a policy brief about children, it is smart to launch it in the Fall. This is because Fall marks back-to-school, so the collective society is thinking about youth at this time. 

Finally, let your audience know ahead of time that you are planning to release a policy brief on your specific topic. This heads-up allows your intended audience to respond to and action the items within your brief. It also helps ensure that your policy brief is received by everyone who you would like to see it, and that it doesn't get lost in the silos of Government.

To learn more about how to write a successful policy brief, check out our 7-part series on the Homelessness Learning Hub!

Other Helpful Resources:

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Winning Policy Brief

by Lydia Stowe, FiscalNote

Policy briefs help your stakeholders understand complex information related to policy in a simple way. Read our step-by-step guide on writing policy briefs.


Back to resources listing

While creating policy briefs is a big part of the public and government affairs role, it’s not often talked about. According to our 2021 State of Public Affairs Industry Report , 40 percent of government relations professionals say briefing is a monthly task, with 35 percent on a weekly schedule and 11 percent daily. This means a major component of your workweek is spent crafting and developing messaging and metrics for other people.  

Government affairs professionals need to write effective policy briefs to keep legislatures and their teams informed on issues that matter to their organization. We’re here to demystify the art of writing a policy brief and make the process simpler and less time-consuming. 

ROI Calculator

What is a Policy Brief, Really?

A policy brief is a concise summary of an issue that includes the policy options to solve a problem and recommendations on the best option. Policy briefs are typically written for organization leaders, policymakers, and others who are responsible for creating and influencing policy. Policy briefs are about a timely, relevant issue or an evergreen issue to your organization.

Policy briefs are just that — brief — with a typical one containing around 700 words on a single page. The briefs are usually designed in an aesthetically pleasing way, sometimes with an image or graphic.

How to Structure a Policy Brief

A policy brief template can help structure your brief and make sure you fit all the relevant information onto one page. Here are the key elements to include in any policy brief.

Your policy brief title should be short and to the point, while also being catchy and attention-grabbing enough to ensure it is read. Keep the title relevant without adding too much information that makes it clunky. Your stakeholder may decide whether to read the brief based solely on the title, so make sure yours is accurate, descriptive, and engaging.

In addition to the title of your brief, you should also add subheaders to make the brief skimmable and break up the text. You don’t want your policy brief to be one long chunk of text, or it will be harder to read and grasp the main points you’re making. Just like your main title, your subheads should be short, catchy, and descriptive.


An executive summary is a brief synopsis of the main points of the policy brief, including the conclusions and recommendations. This summary should draw potential readers in and make them intrigued enough to want to read the whole report.

Bear in mind that the executive summary should contain sufficient information to stand on its own if your policymaker or executive doesn’t have time to read the whole brief. That’s why the summary should be comprehensive enough to provide readers with an overview of the issue, options, and recommendations — all in a few sentences (typically 100-200 words).

The Ultimate Policy Brief Template

Ace your next policy brief with this fully customizable template, designed with expert input and industry insights.


A policy brief should include a clear description of the issue or problem you want policymakers to address. Describe the causes of the problem, its effects, and why it matters. In addition to understanding what the problem is, a good policy brief sheds light on why it is important and needs to be addressed urgently.

Based on your audience, you may not want to describe the problem in the most basic way if what you are saying is commonly known to your audience. “Assess how much the audience already knows at the start,” recommends Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. “Don’t waste everyone’s time with known basics.”


This is the section of your policy brief where you get to explain the reasons behind your policy recommendations and show the research and data behind them. Explain what research has been conducted, how data was collected and by whom, and other background information that establishes the credibility of your research. This should be kept to one to two sentences.

Assess how much the audience already knows at the start. Don't waste everyone's time with known basics. Bruce Mehlman


Describe the current policies in place to address this issue, and why they are insufficient and new policies are necessary. When creating a state policy brief, Joshua Habursky, head of government relations at the Premium Cigar Association, recommends drawing comparisons and contrasts with other states. “If your brief is to California policymakers, describe what they did in Nevada,” he says. “If California and New York are originating it, it’s going to come to the other 48 states in some way, shape, or form.”

Then, describe the proposed policies succinctly. After this section of the policy brief, there should be no doubt about current legislation around this topic or what is being proposed.


Finally, it’s time to make your policy recommendations. Use the research and data presented early in the policy brief to draw a connection to your policy recommendations and why they make sense. While your policy recommendations will undoubtedly use persuasive language, keep them rooted in facts.

The biggest mistake people make when writing a policy brief is making it too biased, Habursky says. “A policy brief should be very explanatory, not a persuasive piece,” he emphasized.

Keep your recommendations short and to the point. Creating “narrow and achievable asks with a short, concise agenda” can make all the difference, according to John Loyer, CEO of Loyer Consulting. Less is more when it comes to captivating your audience and making sure that they are following along.

how to write a policy brief canada


Since you want the main text to be succinct and easy to read quickly, adding appendices to your policy brief can be a great place to present more detailed data, research, and other information. Add relevant information that supports the policy brief in your appendices.

Last but not least, provide references to no more than five sources where your readers can get more information on the topic, including the web addresses to the publications.

7 Tips for Writing an Effective Policy Brief

Want to learn how to write a policy brief like a pro ? Follow these seven tips to ensure your policy briefs are polished and professional.


“Personalize your presentation for specific audiences,” Mehlman says. “Rural Republicans and urban Democrats bring different priorities, as do CEOs and heads of government relations.”

Before creating your policy brief, understand your audience. The more you know about the people who will be reading your brief, the more you can customize it for them.

“The first question to ask is, who is the audience?” Habursky says. He writes policy briefs for board members, external stakeholders, and Hill staff, and tailoring his message to fit the audience is critical. “You get the most bang for your buck if you draft the policy brief and have the mindset that it’s going to go to multiple audience types from the very beginning,” he says.

At the start, you may not know much about your audience, so take the time to get a feel for their attention span and preferences. “There is a degree of trial and error in the beginning,” Habursky says. “Then you’ll be able to tailor it based on their needs.”


When you describe the problem, include a few sentences discussing the urgency. Why is this something your reader should pay attention to, and why now? What are the potential ramifications of inaction on this issue? Policymakers have many issues to consider and address, so make it clear why now is the time to act on this particular issue, and why it can’t wait. Back up your claims with solid facts, not emotion-driven rhetoric.

person writing notes next to a laptop


Don’t assume your audience will already have all the background information on this issue. Summarize any relevant background that will put the issue into context and ensure your reader quickly has a grasp of the history and full scope of the issue. You can also use your appendices and sources section to provide more background information so you don’t disrupt the flow of the main text.


Backing up your argument with statistics is a non-negotiable for a policy briefing. Choose stats that pack a punch, and consider presenting them in a visual way that stands out. Don’t bog down your brief with too many numbers, though. Select the statistics that most support your recommendations and have the greatest impact.


When you spend every day neck-deep in an issue, it can be hard to condense it into just one page. But the more succinct and focused your briefing, the better chance it has of being read. Hone in on your main issue and the key message you need to convey.

“When we first started, we felt like every policy paper we wrote had to cover everything we knew about the topic. They were really long and really dense,” says Karen Pearl, president and CEO of God’s Love We Deliver, a New York organization that provides meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook. “We have over time learned to quickly get to the point and to make the papers more digestible. Now they’re much shorter.” The organization comes up with three to four key message points for each brief. They also include a strong visual and a longer, more detailed report that includes citations and more extensive research on the topic.

We have over time learned to quickly get to the point and to make the papers more digestible. Karen Pearl , CEO God's Love We Deliver


Molly Polen, senior director of communications and public relations at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, always strives for her organization’s briefs to tell readers how scientific information relates to healthcare. She crafts the message to be in easy-to-understand language, not jargon. “What we do is so simple,” she says. “It’s connecting all the pieces to say what the end result will be, how it will be meaningful.”

Keep your message simple and easy to understand, and consider how the terms you use will be received by someone outside your industry (think lawmakers, activists, journalists). Throwing around jargon and complicated acronyms can confuse your reader, muddle the message, and make it difficult to make a connection with your audience. If possible, ask someone outside your industry to give your brief a once-over and flag unfamiliar terms that may need explanation or simplification.


Eye-catching, engaging visuals can illustrate your point and back up your data in an appealing way. Just make sure your visuals are well thought out and align with your message. “Ensure your visuals match your narrative and narrative matches your visuals,” Mehlman says. “Cognitive dissonance undermines persuasion.”

If you’re short on space and trying to keep the brief to one page, Habursky recommends just describing a chart or in a sentence or two of text, then linking to a webpage where the visual aids can be viewed.

how to write a policy brief canada

Write and Present Better Policy Briefs with FiscalNote

With all the policy briefs and issues to manage in a given week, it’s important to stay organized and have the most up-to-date information at your fingertips. FiscalNote has all the tools you need to stay up to date on policy and better research issues that matter to your organization.

With FiscalNote, users can create policy reports with visualizations, regulatory data, and global legislation and visualization. Users can pick and choose different modules to include in the report, such as basic information, policy maps, data visualizations (charts and graphs showing bill and regulation data), legislative and regulatory tables, and more.

FiscalNote provides access to the most innovative tools in digital advocacy management as you create policy briefs that make a difference. Our comprehensive approach to managing advocacy and policy issues can help you promote action, manage risk, assess your impact, and drive results.

State of Government Affairs

Related Resources

How to brief like a pro, getting data right in your annual advocacy report.

by FiscalNote Team, FiscalNote

11 Key Benefits of Stakeholder Management for Government Affairs

Related topics.

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Policy Briefs

What this handout is about.

This handout will offer tips for writing effective policy briefs. Be sure to check with your instructor about his/her specific expectations for your assignment.

What are policy briefs?

Imagine that you’re an elected official serving on a committee that sets the standards cars must meet to pass a state inspection. You know that this is a complex issue, and you’d like to learn more about existing policies, the effects of emissions on the environment and on public health, the economic consequences of different possible approaches, and more–you want to make an informed decision. But you don’t have time to research all of these issues! You need a policy brief.

A policy brief presents a concise summary of information that can help readers understand, and likely make decisions about, government policies. Policy briefs may give objective summaries of relevant research, suggest possible policy options, or go even further and argue for particular courses of action.

How do policy briefs differ from other kinds of writing assignments?

You may encounter policy brief assignments in many different academic disciplines, from public health and environmental science to education and social work. If you’re reading this handout because you’re having your first encounter with such an assignment, don’t worry–many of your existing skills and strategies, like using evidence , being concise , and organizing your information effectively , will help you succeed at this form of writing. However, policy briefs are distinctive in several ways.

In some of your college writing, you’ve addressed your peers, your professors, or other members of your academic field. Policy briefs are usually created for a more general reader or policy maker who has a stake in the issue that you’re discussing.

Tone and terminology

Many academic disciplines discourage using unnecessary jargon, but clear language is especially important in policy briefs. If you find yourself using jargon, try to replace it with more direct language that a non-specialist reader would be more likely to understand. When specialized terminology is necessary, explain it quickly and clearly to ensure that your reader doesn’t get confused.

Policy briefs are distinctive in their focus on communicating the practical implications of research to a specific audience. Suppose that you and your roommate both write research-based papers about global warming. Your roommate is writing a research paper for an environmental science course, and you are writing a policy brief for a course on public policy. You might both use the exact same sources in writing your papers. So, how might those papers differ?

Your roommate’s research paper is likely to present the findings of previous studies and synthesize them in order to present an argument about what we know. It might also discuss the methods and processes used in the research.

Your policy brief might synthesize the same scientific findings, but it will deploy them for a very specific purpose: to help readers decide what they should do. It will relate the findings to current policy debates, with an emphasis on applying the research outcomes rather than assessing the research procedures. A research paper might also suggest practical actions, but a policy brief is likely to emphasize them more strongly and develop them more fully.

To support these changes in audience, tone, and purpose, policy briefs have a distinctive format. You should consult your assignment prompt and/or your professor for instructions about the specific requirements of your assignment, but most policy briefs have several features in common. They tend to use lots of headings and have relatively short sections. This structure differs from many short papers in the humanities that may have a title but no further headings, and from reports in the sciences that may follow the “IMRAD” structure of introduction, methods, results, and discussion. Your brief might include graphs, charts, or other visual aids that make it easier to digest the most important information within sections.  Policy briefs often include some of these sections:

Depending on your specific topic and assignment, you might combine sections or break them down into several more specific ones.

How do I identify a problem for my policy brief?

An effective policy brief must propose a solution to a well-defined problem that can be addressed at the level of policy. This may sound easy, but it can take a lot of work to think of a problem in a way that is open to policy action.

For example, “bad spending habits in young adults” might be a problem that you feel strongly about, but you can’t simply implement a policy to “make better financial decisions.” In order to make it the subject of a policy brief, you’ll need to look for research on the topic and narrow it down. Is the problem a lack of financial education, predatory lending practices, dishonest advertising, or something else? Narrowing to one of these (and perhaps further) would allow you to write a brief that can propose concrete policy action.

For another example, let’s say that you wanted to address children’s health. This is a big issue, and too broad to serve as the focus of a policy brief, but it could serve as a starting point for research. As you begin to research studies on children’s health, you might decide to zoom in on the more specific issue of childhood obesity. You’ll need to consult the research further to decide what factors contribute to it in order to propose policy changes. Is it lack of exercise, nutritional deficiencies, a combination of these, or something else? Choosing one or another of these issues, your brief would zoom in even further to specific proposals that might include exercise initiatives, nutritional guidelines, or school lunch programs.

The key is that you define the problem and its contributing factors as specifically as possible so that some sort of concrete policy action (at the local, state, or national level) is feasible.

Framing the issue

Once you’ve identified the problem for yourself, you need to decide how you will present it to your reader. Your own process of identifying the problem likely had some stops, starts, and dead-ends, but your goal in framing the issue for your reader is to provide the most direct path to understanding the problem and the proposed policy change. It can be helpful to think of some of the most pressing questions your audience will have and attempt to preemptively answer those questions. Here are some questions you might want to consider:

What is the problem?

Understanding what the problem is, in the clearest terms possible, will give your reader a reference point. Later, when you’re discussing complex information, your reader can refer back to the initial problem. This will help to ‘anchor’ them throughout the course of your argument. Every piece of information in the brief should be clearly and easily connected to the problem.

What is the scope of the problem?

Knowing the extent of the problem helps to frame the policy issue for your reader. Is the problem statewide, national, or international? How many people does this issue affect? Daily? Annually? This is a great place for any statistical information you may have gathered through your research.

Who are the stakeholders?

Who does this issue affect? Adult women? College-educated men? Children from bilingual homes? The primary group being affected is important, and knowing who this group is allows the reader to assign a face to the policy issue.

Policy issues can include a complex network of stakeholders. Double check whether you have inadvertently excluded any of them from your analysis. For example, a policy about children’s nutrition obviously involves the children, but it might also include food producers, distributors, parents, and nutritionists (and other experts). Some stakeholders might be reluctant to accept your policy change or even acknowledge the existence of the problem, which is why your brief must be convincing in its use of evidence and clear in its communication.

Effective policy-writing

This handout has emphasized that good policy briefs are clear, concise, and focused on applying credible research to policy problems. Let’s take a look at two versions of the introduction to a policy brief to see how someone might write and revise to achieve these qualities:

A “not-so-good” policy brief

Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health in Outlandia: A Call to Action

The Report on Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health in Outlandia (2010), issued by Secretary of Health Dr. Polly Galver, served as a platform to increase public awareness on the importance of dermatologic health for adolescents. Among the major themes of the report are that dermatologic health is essential to general health and well-being and that profound and consequential dermatologic health disparities exist in the state of Outlandia. Dr. Galver stated that what amounts to a silent epidemic of acne is affecting some population groups–restricting activities as schools, work, and home–and often significantly diminishing the quality of life. Dr. Galver issued the Report on Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health as a wake-up call to policymakers and health professionals on issues regarding the state’s dermatologic health. (“ Not so good policy brief ,” Reproduced with permission of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.)

This paragraph introduces a relevant and credible source, but it fails to use that source to explain a problem and propose policy action. The reader is likely to be confused because the word “acne” does not appear until the middle of the paragraph, and the brief never states what action should be taken to address it. In addition to this lack of focus, the paragraph also includes unnecessary phrases like “among the major themes” that could be removed to make it more concise.

A better policy brief

Seeing Spots: Addressing the Silent Epidemic of Acne in Outlandia’s Youth

Acne is the most common chronic disease among adolescents in Outlandia (Outlandia Department of Health, 2010). Long considered a benign rite of passage, acne actually has far-reaching effects on the health and well being of adolescents, significantly affecting success in school, social relationships, and general quality of life. Yet large portions of the state’s population are unable to access treatment for acne. The Secretary of Health’s Report on Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health in Outlandia (2010) is a call to action for policymakers and health professionals to improve the health and wellbeing of Outlandia’s youth by increasing access to dermatologic care (“ A Better Policy Brief” , Reproduced with permission of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.)

This paragraph is far more focused and concise than the first version. The opening sentence is straightforward; instead of focusing on the source, it makes a clear and memorable point that is supported by the source. Additionally, though the first version was titled “a call to action,” it did not actually say what that action might be. In this version, it is clear that the call is for increased access to dermatologic care.

Keep in mind that clarity, conciseness, and consistent focus are rarely easy to achieve in a first draft. Careful editing and revision are key parts of writing policy briefs.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Smith, Catherine F. 2016. Writing Public Policy , 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Young, Eoin, and Lisa Quinn. n.d. “The Policy Brief.” University of Delaware. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blog.lrei.org/dist/c/104/files/2009/11/PolicyBrief-described.pdf .

Creative Commons License

Make a Gift


How to Write a Policy Brief

A well-written policy brief is an effective tool to encourage decision makers to take up new knowledge. Governments set the direction and fund services, so writing good policy briefs will help get the attention of both public servants and elected officials.

View this step-by-step video tutorial to learn how to write your own policy brief to give government and other decision makers the necessary information and confidence to adopt new approaches.


Stephen Gaetz , President and CEO, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness David French , Managing Director, A Way Home Canada

Part 1: What is a Policy Brief?

A policy brief is an important tool for research impact . Policy briefs are used to shape opinions and influence decision makers. With complex issues like homelessness, real change happens slowly, but a policy brief can help inform government and other decision makers to shift thinking and take action.

Part 2. How Policy Briefs boost research impact

Policy briefs are a tool to shape policy and increase impact. One way that policy briefs help set the direction is by giving governments and communities confidence to adopt new approaches.

Part 3. Understand the Policy Cycle

A Policy Brief supports the work of governments at different phases in the policy cycle.

Part 4. Focus Attention and Connect the Dots

The way you write the policy brief can improve your chances of getting the attention of government. Focus on presenting solutions. As a partner on the ground, you are a trusted source of knowledge. Align your messages to government priorities.

Part 5. Tell a Story

Give thought to how you tell the story. A well-designed policy brief takes the reader on a journey. Begin with a broad idea: what is the issue and why is it so bad? Then, shift to provide solutions to the problem. You task is to provide hope that the solution will yield better outcomes and provide a concrete path forward based on evidence.

Part 6. Writing Recommendations

Writing good recommendations is a skill that takes practice. To be effective, recommendations should be targeted, specific and concrete. It’s important to direct them to the groups who are responsible for taking action.

Part 7. Time the Release

Let government know ahead of time that you are planning to release a policy brief. Sharing the policy brief in advance with your audience gives them a chance to respond to your recommendations.

Part 8. Q&A

When Government, research partners and organizations work together to develop policy, good ideas don’t get lost in the silos of government.

Webinar recorded: January 2021

There was a problem reporting this post.

Block Member?

Please confirm you want to block this member.

You will no longer be able to:

Please allow a few minutes for this process to complete.

Trent Forward: Learn more about our response to COVID-19.


A student studying on the floor

How to Write a Policy Assignment

What is a policy assignment, policy critique.

Reading and Analyzing Policy

Research and Writing Process

Understanding, evaluating, and writing policy documents are important competencies to develop as undergraduate students in a wide range of fields, spanning from Health Care to Environmental Science to Education. Policy is informed by strong research and accurate evidence, often compiled and presented by government and non-governmental organizations. Public policies include formal legislation, official plans, and regulations created by various levels of government. Each of these can act as guiding principles for governmental decision making and program delivery. Non-governmental and para-governmental organizations publish policy briefs, commission reports, and fact sheets to inform policy makers and recommend policy change.

Course instructors often ask students to analyze policy documents to better understand issues and policy alternatives, and students in many disciplines must write policy documents, including critiques and briefs or briefing notes. This guide offers steps to reading policy and keys for effective policy writing.

Types of Policy Assignments

In a policy critique, students are expected to read and critically analyze one or more policy documents that address a common issue. The goal of this assignment is to present an overall assessment of current or proposed policies and their efficacy or potential considering both scholarly theory and real-world, practical application with consideration of environmental, social, or economic contexts.

Proposed structure

Policy Brief (Briefing Note)

Policy briefs or briefing notes are documents written by governmental and non-governmental organizations to propose evidence-based policy solutions to a well-defined social, environmental, or economic issue. Briefs present findings from academic and grey literature to demonstrate the scope of an issue and to analyze its context and background. The brief is organized with clear headings and short sections, which are supported by figures or tables.

Each policy document is focused on a specific issue and establishes particular goals; when you read any policy document, you are working to understand and analyze the issue and how the policy addresses the issue. These messages are often presented in different ways. Policy briefs are, well, brief, but other policy documents or commissioned reports can be quite lengthy, so it is important to develop a reading strategy for each new document. Generally, it is best to follow this process: preview, plan, read and take notes, and assess within course context.

Because policy documents vary significantly in form and purpose, it is essential to preview the document prior to reading it: identify its author, its purpose, and its form. Take time to read the executive summary, which presents a short explanation of the issue and purpose of the document. Understand its authorship and the interests of the individual or organizational author.

Make a plan

Identify your goal in reading the document: do you wish to better understand the issue, to identify policy alternatives, to appreciate broader context, or to determine efficacy of policy? How will this document inform your understanding of the issue you are studying? What sections will be most useful or relevant?

Read and take notes

Your preview and plan can direct your reading and notetaking. Read closely to understand the policy or issue, its context, and the evidence used to support it. Identify stakeholders and their interests, the goals of the policy and how those goals are measurable and actionable. You may find it helpful to refer to the table of contents or index (or to use the ‘find’ tool in your browser) to seek out sections that contain relevant keywords in documents spanning more than 100 pages.

Assess policy within course context

Refer to theories, frameworks, and indices that you have discussed in class to assess a policy. Consider whether it follows a particular conceptual framework or achieves particular numerical targets. Compare it to other policies in similar contexts and analyze its parts to assess its adaptability to different contexts. Evaluate its fit to the specific issue and its relevance for various stakeholder needs or values.

Reading an Official Plan

An official plan is often a lengthy document that covers many topics and issues within a set of overarching goals for an organization, like a university, hospital, or municipality. Your aim should be to understand the overarching goals of the plan and its broader context, which are likely laid out in the executive summary and introductory sections. Then you may need to seek out references to a particular topic, issue, or stakeholder; the index, table of contents, or “find” tool can be helpful for this.

Reading a Policy Brief

The goal of a policy brief is to inform and persuade policy makers, so your aim should be to understand the issue the brief identifies and to analyze the policy it proposes. The structure and design of the policy brief will guide your reading. Take time to understand the context of the issue and the policy: who are the stakeholders, what are the goals, what is the process, and what are the barriers? Analyze the policy within the disciplinary concepts you’re learning in class; how does the policy fit particular frameworks, theories, or indices you’ve discussed? What is unique about this policy? How can this policy be adapted to different contexts? What is its potential to address the issue?

Successful policy assignments are focused, well-researched, analytical, organized, and concise. Therefore, it is important to take time to define the issue, understand the context of the issue, and seek out policy alternatives prior to identifying a recommended course of action.

Focused issue

It is essential that you present a focused and clear issue, and that issue must be at the scale of policy action. For example, policy briefs can address ER wait times or agricultural pesticide use, but issues such as access to health care or the sustainability of food production are too complex for you to address in a short policy assignment. Often, course material and core concepts provide useful direction for you to narrow your issue.

In policy assignments, an issue is clearly defined and contextualized with evidence from scholarly and grey literature. It is important for you to explain how scholars, governments, or NGOs have discussed the issue, and numerical data or figures can demonstrate the scale of an issue or its projected trajectory. Provide details about the issue in its context: be specific about place, time, and stakeholders, and acknowledge any overlapping economic, environmental, or social issues.

Example: Effective issue definition 1

Age-friendly municipalities foster solidarity among generations within communities and reach out to older people at risk of isolation by making them feel socially included and involved (WHO, 2007). It is well documented that these trends are happening across Canada, and evidence suggests that local governments have a key role in enabling older people to live longer. It is unclear to what degree Aurora’s municipal government is prepared to support its expanding ageing population. It is essential to continue to examine new approaches to housing and transportation infrastructure within Aurora in order to improve public policy matters in regards to their ageing population.

Example: Ineffective issue definition 1

In addition to the infrastructure issue in Peterborough, there is also an issue regarding how spread out the community is. The city is too big for residents to be able to walk the entire city. Amenities are also very spread out; it is unlikely that pedestrians would be able to access the required amenities within walking distance from their house. Ultimately, the main issues surrounding the walkability in the City of Peterborough are the lack of infrastructure and maintenance, as well as the lack of available activities near to peoples’ residences.

Using research

Policy is informed by evidence from scholarly literature, government data, and research by various stakeholder organizations. Effective policy assignments synthesize evidence from academic and grey literature to create an accurate account of the issue and policy options. Common forms of evidence in policy writing include numerical and financial data, figures such as graphs and maps, excerpts from existing policies, recommendations from NGOs, and conceptual frameworks.

In policy writing, your goal is to present research both accurately and accessibly, as decision-makers in government and business may not be familiar with terminology or concepts presented by scholars. Make efforts to paraphrase the evidence you use and be sure to include citations in the form requested by your professor (footnotes or author-date systems are common).

One of the key factors in Municipal Cultural Planning is increasing cross-sectoral strategies by building new partnerships “…between the municipality and its community and business partners” (Municipal Cultural Plan, toolkit, 2011, p.21) for long term sustainability. Therefore, municipal cultural planning “…does not look at policy sectorally” (Gollmitzer, 2008, p.18), but instead strengthens and integrates “…cultural resources across all facets of government planning and decision making” (Municipal Cultural Plan Toolkit, 2011, p.21). Building new networks are supported by leveraging the sense of place within a community. Adopting a place-based planning approach allows “…government, community organizations and citizens to explore, measure and asses the values, resources and assets of the community” (Huhtala, 2016, p.66), in order to leverage them for economic prosperity.

Demonstrating analysis

The quality of your policy assignment is closely tied to your analysis of the issue and the policy options you present. It is important to evaluate policy options as you research and to critically analyze how those options address the issue within its particular context. Take time to examine specific factors and parties involved in an issue and consider how these factors may facilitate or challenge each policy option; furthermore, you should also assess the advantages and disadvantages of each policy option and its impacts on these factors or parties.

You may find it valuable to consider theories, concepts, or frameworks from your course to develop your argument and to establish coherence throughout your assignment. If you assess all policy options through the same critical lens or theory, then your message will be clear and consistent throughout your document.

Integrating senior housing into the fabric of the inner core communities could make housing developments viable and situate seniors in settings where they can access these services by foot or nearby transit (Fang, 2013).  This concept can allow seniors, who may be considering downsizing, to remain within their community where they can keep active, live within easy access to medical and community services, and stay close to their support network that they have spent their lives establishing. However, the growing demand for these developments could put major pressure on the municipality.  City officials would have to amend current zoning by-laws to allow commercial and residential uses to be a part of mixed-use development and appropriate provisions need to be provided to ensure compatibility and to minimize potential negative impacts. 

Organized, concise, and clear writing

Policy writing should be well-organized and easy to follow. Use headings and subheadings to create structure and to support your reader. It is common to number sections and subsections to further clarify the order of your ideas. In addition, good paragraph structure also supports organization and clarity, so we encourage you to use specific topic sentences to introduce the main idea of a paragraph.

Well-written policy assignments employ a formal writing style and use third-person voice (e.g., they) rather than first-person (e.g., I, we) or second-person (e.g., you) voice. Further, they avoid jargon, but use specific and clear language. When you revise your draft, take time to consider each sentence and remove repetitive or redundant phrases and words.

Finally, it is important to pay attention to the details. Label any figures or tables in your document; make reference to these figures or tables in the text of your work (e.g., see Figure 1). Also be sure to follow assignment instructions for referencing evidence in your text (e.g., footnotes or author-date system) and in your list of sources, which is often categorized by type of source (e.g., academic, government, NGOs).

There are many ways to approach a policy assignment, but it is important to take time to research and analyze issues and policy options thoroughly prior to writing. Consider the following steps to complete your policy assignment:

How To Guides

how to write a policy brief canada

Getting Ahead: How to Write a Policy Brief

n universities across Canada, scholarly-type papers are the uncontested grading norm in all social science disciplines. Considering the academic context, this is absolutely normal. From the outset, students are expected to master the art of thesis-formulation, literature reviews, citation formatting, etc. However, usually in the later years of their program, students in political science related disciplines often face an entirely new beast: the policy brief.

Unlike its purely academic counterpart, the policy brief is a more practical form of political writing that is popularly employed outside the realm of universities, in the “real world.” A policy brief’s purpose, format, and style diverge significantly from academic papers, which can lead to unnecessary faux pas by unsuspecting students.

What is a Policy Brief?

According to the Brookings Institute: “Policy Briefs are short and informative analyses on some of the nation’s most pressing domestic and foreign policy challenges that bring background and recommendations to policy-makers, journalists and the general public.”  In other words, they are tools that emphasize a particular issue, and offer solutions in order to cope with it. A wide range of institutions, such as governments, international organizations, think tanks, and even some private companies employ them to raise awareness or affect decision-makers.

In the classroom, professors will often ask students to produce policy briefs in classes focused on the practice of political science, usually in the context of a simulation. The student must tackle a particular subject from the standpoint of an organization, adding a role-playing dimension to writing a paper.

What does a Policy Brief Contain?

Introduction : A policy Brief should begin by providing a concise background summary of the issue, without adding unnecessary clutter. Clearly explain why the matter is problematic, highlighting the consequences of ignoring the issue. A sense of urgency that incites the reader to continue is key.

Recommendations : After the problem has been set, the thesis is replaced by the solution you’re putting forward. It will set the tone for the rest of the paper. Make sure that it’s straightforward (no vague statements), and realistic to the context at hand. If you’re presenting multiple solutions, they must be conspicuously defined and distinguished.

Body : A strong policy brief doesn’t just present abstract solutions; it uses strong evidence to back its claims and provides a framework on how to deal with the issue. The organization can be highly variable depending on the length, and thoroughness of the paper, possibilities include: creating sections based on (i) facets of the issue, (ii) different solutions to the issue, (iii) phases of the framework to deal with the issue, or (iv) a combination of the former. This list is far from exhaustive.

Conclusion : Because of their concise nature, policy briefs will frequently omit conclusions; all the take-away should be in the body of the paper. However, in longer briefs, conclusions are sometimes required or even necessary. In those cases, a short summary can be beneficial to the reader. In addition, if the policy brief is part of a series or if it’s called for- tying the paper to the bigger picture can certainly add value.

How are Policy Briefs Different?

Format : As opposed to the relatively bland and formulaic scholarly-paper, policy briefs are meant to be attractive and enticing to the reader. They usually have more colourful templates, images, graphs, and creative spatial distribution (that is, unless your prof asks you to submit the brief in the standard double-spaced 12 Times New Roman with 1-inch margins). Also, although they tend to be shorter than scholarly papers, do not shy away from using as many- if not more- subtitles to distinguish different sections.

Writing Style : Policy briefs are made to be simple and accessible, so long academic-sounding sentences are a negative. They must remain professional in their nature, and to the point.

Structure : While transparency is important, long paragraphs about methodology and literature reviews, have no place in a policy brief. All statements must be based on solid data, but how you got there isn’t necessarily relevant. Of course, as in all work submitted at university, make sure everything is properly referenced, and that citations are clearly indicated at the end of the paper.

Narration : Never use the first-person singular pronoun in a policy brief (unless specifically told otherwise). As it was previously stated, policy briefs are almost always meant to represent the views of organizations, so make sure to use appropriate pronouns.

When all is said and done, policy briefs remain well-structured argumentative papers very much like the standard scholarly paper. Although the format can be daunting at first, learning how to write a strong policy brief can be a valuable skill, which can certainly widen your professional horizon post-graduation.

' src=

Related Articles

how to write a policy brief canada

An Ever More Fragile Ceasefire

Western governments have rejected the legitimacy of the separatist poll beacuse the separatist elections undermine the 05 September ceasefire reached in Minsk.

how to write a policy brief canada

Canada’s NATO Podcasts: Interview with Inspector Shawna Coxon

Listen as Inspector Shawna Coxon discusses the impact of her Computer Cyber Crime (C3) Unit.

how to write a policy brief canada

Infograph- The Young and the Jobless

Some trends in youth unemployment.

Language selection

Writing the policy

Who should write the policy?

The analysis process is likely to yield a long, detailed document that must be condensed and culled into a statement of policy, which is traditionally a short, concise document. People have different strategies for achieving this step (think about how you cull research into a written paper), although nearly all methods require identifying priorities, merging and synthesizing, and invoking disciplined editing.

Usually someone in the museum - an editor, a scholar, an educator - is expert at these skills and is chosen to write the policy drafts.

What style of writing and prose are appropriate?

Policy writing guidelines stress the importance of using clear and simple language. Avoid jargon; in instances where they must be included, explain the meaning of the terms/phrases in a "definitions" section of the policy.

Because the policy is a guideline, not a regulation, avoid using words that imply a mandate, such as "will" or "must." (Many policies choose the term "shall" in lieu of these words or "may" when discussing options.)

In general, select words carefully and use as few words as necessary to convey your point.

The prose should guide the reader through the document. Avoid long, convoluted sentences (they are easy to misinterpret) and keep the policy itself as short as possible.

Who should review policy drafts?

Collections managers should be part of the group that reviews the policy in its various drafts, as should a pre-selected group of museum staff who are astute about the issues and have been involved in the policy development process.

What format should be used?

The policy's organization, structure, and components are largely your choice and preference.

In your external review of policies from other museums and related institutions, you will have seen a variety of formats and organizational structures, some of which work better than others.

If you are part of a larger organization, you may already have a policy format prescribed by your parent institution.

Contact information for this web page

This resource was published by the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). For comments or questions regarding this content, please contact CHIN directly . To find other online resources for museum professionals, visit the CHIN homepage or the  Museology and conservation topic page on Canada.ca.

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries,  contact us .

American Public University System: LibAnswers banner

Q. I'm writing a policy brief. Where can I find examples?


Answered By: APUS Librarians Last Updated: Sep 15, 2022     Views: 21795

Was this helpful? Yes 12 No 4

writing tutor

Related topics.

Need personalized help? Librarians are available 365 days/nights per year!  See our schedule.

Email your librarians. librarian@apus.edu

Learn more about how librarians can help you succeed.    

Canadian Government Policy Cycle

These pages provide resources for an understanding of the Canadian federal government policy cycle.

Roles and Responsibilities of Central Agencies (Parliamentary Information and Research Service) The Horizontal Challenge: Line Departments, Central Agencies and Leadership

Treasury Board of Canada

Why is the Government contemplating action on an issue? Possible explanations include the following:

(a) Statistics revealed a problem in Canadian society

(b) Scientific research has revealed a problem for Canadian society

Federal Science Library - search individually or collectively the collections of the Canadian Agriculture Library, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, National Science Library and Natural Resources Canada CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada)

(c) Party/policy or election platform called for the policy

(d) A body tasked with an investigation has made a recommendation for action Reports from commissions of inquiry , task forces, legislative committees, advisory bodies and departments may have the additional benefit of providing historical background to the issue Government of Canada Publications

(e) Opinion called for the policy

Particularly those that appear before Parliamentary Committees: Senate and House of Commons (f) Canada's international commitments called for policy measures Canada is a signatory to treaties that require regular reporting on progress towards implementation and which may involve the assessment by other countries of Canada's progress. These implementation reports in the area of human rights cover economic, social, and cultural aspects and summarize Canada's policy initiatives in these areas at both the federal and provincial/territorial levels.

(g) Parliamentary committees made a policy recommendation Both the Senate and House of Commons have committees. There are also joint committees of both the House of Commons and Senate. It can be helpful for those interested in the evolution of policy to follow the work of a relevant committee.

Committees study and report on legislative proposals (bills). Committees can also investigate topics of interest and summon witnesses. Witnesses may appear on their own behalf, on behalf of the Government, or can represent various interest groups.

When the Committee has concluded its study, a report is usually prepared. At the end of the report, there can be recommendations, which may or may not be unanimous and a request to the Government to respond to these recommendations. These responses indicate the Government's policy position and care is taken in their drafting .

Example of a report and Government response: Declaration of Health Emergency by First Nations Communities in Northern Ontario and Government Response to the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, "Declaration of Health Emergency by First Nations Communities in Northern Ontario" .

(h) A Government oversight body has recommended a policy change

What action is the Government taking to address the issue? Preliminary Work

(a) Government may study the issue Library of Parliament may be asked to prepare a backgrounder on the issue Policy Horizons Canada publishes a wide range of reports on emerging issues in society, economy, environment, governance, and technology Risk Management Reports may be prepared by commissions of inquiry, task forces, legislative committees, advisory bodies, departments. These reports may have the additional benefit of providing the historical background to the issue - Government of Canada Publications

(b) Government may wish to raise the issue for public discussion

(c) Government may release an outline of its policy objectives and possible future action

Policy Actions

(a) The Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister may make a statement by itself or accompanying a package of measures

(b) Government may engage in capacity-building, which goes beyond providing information and transfers to people and organizations the means to advance policy objectives.

(c) Government may apply economic instruments such as taxes, fees and public expenditures

Funding a New Initiative: How a Department Gets Approvals and Money

Taxes, fees, duties, public expenditures

(d) Government may impose new rules such as laws and regulations

How effective was the policy? Customized Google search engine for Government Information

Audits/Evaluation Reports

How to Write a Policy Brief

Last Updated: December 30, 2022 References Approved

This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD . Jennifer Mueller is a wikiHow Content Creator. She specializes in reviewing, fact-checking, and evaluating wikiHow's content to ensure thoroughness and accuracy. Jennifer holds a JD from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2006. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 90% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 160,650 times. Learn more...

A policy brief is a short document that either advocates for a particular position or objectively describes a policy issue and the options available. You may have to write a policy brief for a class assignment, or while working for a corporation or nonprofit organization. A policy brief is typically fewer than 1,000 words and uses facts and figures to present the issue to readers who want a basic understanding. [1] X Trustworthy Source Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations Specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for leading international efforts to end world hunger and improve nutrition Go to source

Framing Your Issue

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 1

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 2

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 3

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 4

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 5

Tip: If you're having a hard time focusing your draft, talk to some whose opinion you respect. It doesn't matter if they know anything about your topic or not – you're just looking for a way to focus your writing on the point you want to make.

Building Your Structure

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 6

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 7

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 8

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 9

Tip: Word processing apps have templates you can use to streamline your policy brief. These templates will ensure your design is visually pleasing, clean, and uncluttered.

Writing Effectively

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 10

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 11

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 12

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 13

Image titled Write a Policy Brief Step 14

Tip: There are apps you can download for free that will help you with proofreading. Grammarly will help you with proofreading active voice. The Hemingway app will also help you with active voice and allows you to customize your feedback based on a specific reading level.

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Write a Proposal

About This Article

Jennifer Mueller, JD

To write a policy brief, start by writing a strong summary statement and explain in a concise introduction why the issue is important to your readers. Next, create section headings for your main sections using brief, active phrases. Then, fill the sections with content using clear language, solid research, and your proposed solutions. Finally, close the brief with a summary and a call to action to support the solutions you've proposed. For tips on adding images and other dynamic content, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

Reader Success Stories

James Kafupi Banda

James Kafupi Banda

Dec 16, 2017

Did this article help you?

James Kafupi Banda

Ellen Mitchell

May 24, 2017

Audrey Dickerson

Audrey Dickerson

Jan 3, 2021

Blamah Z. Fully

Blamah Z. Fully

Apr 26, 2016

Chinwe Onumonu

Chinwe Onumonu

Oct 24, 2019

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

Order at Starbucks

Trending Articles

What's Your Mindset Quiz

Watch Articles

Make Tabasco Sauce

wikiHow Tech Help Pro:

Develop the tech skills you need for work and life

Banner Image

ENV205H5: Sustainable Tourism (Winter 2021)

Assignment Overview and Goals (from the Policy Brief Assignment Guidelines)

In this class you are required to research and write a policy-style recommendation brief which focuses on either:

The goal of the assignment is to get you to apply the course concepts in a real-world situation. Your assignment will answer the following question:

“In what ways can this location/component of the industry become more sustainable?”

Assignment Details (from the Policy Brief Assignment Guidelines)

How to write a Policy Brief: Resources

A policy brief:

The resources linked below can help you construct your policy-style recommendation brief:

Examples of Policy Briefs

To help with the Policy Brief writing process, please see these three examples:

UNCTAD Policy Brief: Boosting the Development Impact of Tourism in Africa

POLICY BRIEF: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in Vanuatu

From Hydropower to Sustainable Ecotourism: The Future of Development in the Nu River Valley, Yunnan, China

Find Policy Papers/Briefs

Other Resources for Finding Policy Documents

Small header image for Polaris web pages

Resources for Writing Briefs

Four types of briefing documents - information, issue, policy, policy impact

Policy is an important tool for improving population health. Decision makers often look to public health professionals for surveillance data, research findings, and evidence-based interventions and guidelines to help inform policy decisions. CDC has identified four types of briefing documents that can be used to clearly communicate public health evidence. Public health professionals can use the resources below to develop briefs that succinctly inform decision makers and stakeholders of the best available evidence on a public health problem, policy, method, or approach.

Accelerating Science Impact: Four Types of Briefing Documents

The four types of briefing documents can be used to share evidence and inform decisions at every stage of the CDC Policy Process. Selecting the appropriate brief depends on the level of the evidence available and the stage in the policy process. As research evidence grows and more information becomes available, public health professionals can move from an Issue Brief on the public health problem up to a Policy Impact Brief on the potential health, economic, or budgetary impact of a policy. All four brief types are described below.

Steps for Writing Briefs

steps for writing briefs infographic-see following paragraph for text

Steps for Writing Briefs Infographic Text

When you’re ready to start developing your brief, consider the following steps.

PDF Version – Steps for Writing Briefs Infographic pdf icon [PDF – 479 KB]

Exit Notification / Disclaimer Policy

CDC.gov Privacy Settings

We take your privacy seriously. You can review and change the way we collect information below.

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

Cookies used to make website functionality more relevant to you. These cookies perform functions like remembering presentation options or choices and, in some cases, delivery of web content that based on self-identified area of interests.

Cookies used to track the effectiveness of CDC public health campaigns through clickthrough data.

Cookies used to enable you to share pages and content that you find interesting on CDC.gov through third party social networking and other websites. These cookies may also be used for advertising purposes by these third parties.

Thank you for taking the time to confirm your preferences. If you need to go back and make any changes, you can always do so by going to our Privacy Policy page.

Browse  COVID-19 resources from partners  and CCSA experts  – trusted sources for your information and research needs.

Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Maintaining a Public Health Approach to Alcohol Policy During COVID-19 [Policy Brief]

Publication date: 2021 Author: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

This policy brief identifies ways to address higher-risk alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include limiting sales through reduced access to alcohol, lower numbers of alcohol sales outlets in a given geographical area, and minimum pricing. Policy changes that increased alcohol use in some areas are also highlighted.

Related Publications

Alcohol and cannabis retail regulations during the covid-19 pandemic in canada [initial lockdown march/april 2020], related news, ccsa applauds investments in wellness, addressing social determinants of health in 2021 federal budget, covid-19 stress amplifying mental health and substance use concerns: leger poll.

CCSA and Health Canada Invest $1.8 Million in Cannabis Research Projects

All related news from CCSA

Addiction News Daily

Changement d'heure: la vente d'alcool cessera plus tôt cette fin de semaine - le journal de montréal, 'we should pay attention': n.s. oncologist explains link between alcohol and cancer, these canadians passed on alcohol long before going 'dry' became trendy.

All related news from Addiction News Daily

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience possible on our website. 

You can change your cookie settings in your web browser at any time. If you continue without changing your settings, we’ll assume that you are happy to receive cookies from our website. Review our  Privacy Notice  for more information. 


  1. How to Write a Policy Brief: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

    how to write a policy brief canada

  2. 10 Policy Brief Template Microsoft Word

    how to write a policy brief canada

  3. How To Write A Policy Brief Australia

    how to write a policy brief canada

  4. 50 Free Policy Brief Templates (MS Word) ᐅ TemplateLab

    how to write a policy brief canada

  5. Buy essay college How to write a policy brief canada

    how to write a policy brief canada

  6. How To Write A Policy Brief Template / 14+ Policy Brief Templates and Examples

    how to write a policy brief canada


  1. Canada refusal? What next

  2. SUMERNET 4 All Training on How to write policy brief_26 July 2022

  3. Media Strategy Video

  4. Environmental Change and Security Program: Report on Critical Minerals

  5. 11th Annual Tom Tom Festival

  6. Youth Voices Against Anti-Black Racism


  1. How to write a policy brief

    A policy brief should be convincing and interesting to read. The design and presentation of your brief are important considerations and can help keep the reader engaged. Use compelling titles and headings, sidebars featuring interesting details, bulleted lists to summarize your points, and graphics such as charts and images. Titles and headings

  2. Policy Brief

    A policy brief is a succinctly written document about a particular issue. It consolidates research on the context, causes, stakeholders, and impact of a situation or problem. A policy brief is designed to help decision/policy makers by presenting policy options and recommendations.

  3. Briefing Notes and Writing for Government

    Writing a Briefing Note This how-to from The Atlas of Public Management (2021) walks through the steps to consider when writing a briefing note, as well as provides many related resources. Briefing Notes - Additional Resources Briefing Notes Style Guide Written by Adam Graham, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University, 2021.

  4. PDF How to write a policy brief

    • Planning your policy brief p. 3-12 • Policy brief template p. 13-26 • Designing the brief p. 27-34 • Checking your work p. 35-36. 2. ... Good luck writing your policy brief! 37. Title: PowerPoint Presentation Author: Francine Bouchard Created Date: 5/3/2016 12:29:01 PM ...

  5. The Policy Brief: Helpful Resources

    How to Write a Policy Brief Helpful tips on how to write a Policy Brief from the IDRC Example Policy Brief: "Supportive Housing for Ontario" from Wellesley Institute Example Policy Brief: "Would a Universal Basic Income Reduce Poverty?" from Maytree Find Policy Papers Canadian Public Documents Collection

  6. How to Write a Great Policy Brief

    A policy brief is very much like a research paper - both require a logical narrative arc. The writer needs to tell a story, and take the reader on a journey. You must begin with a broad idea: what is the problem and why is it so bad? Then, shift toward your proposed solutions to the problem.

  7. Policy Briefs and Reports (Policy)

    A policy brief is a concise summary of a specific issue. It covers the policy options to deal with the respective issue, and makes recommendations based on the evidence. Policy briefs assist government policy makers and others who are interested as resources in formulating or regulating policy.

  8. How to Write a Policy Brief (Step by Step)

    Follow these seven tips to ensure your policy briefs are polished and professional. 1. UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE "Personalize your presentation for specific audiences," Mehlman says. "Rural Republicans and urban Democrats bring different priorities, as do CEOs and heads of government relations."

  9. Policy Brief: Overview (with Templates & Examples)

    A policy brief can take two different formats. The most commonly used format is the single A4 sheet (210 x 297 mm) format, containing around 700 words. The other format has long paragraphs and can contain up to 3000 words or 8 pages. What to Consider When Drafting a Policy Brief

  10. Policy Briefs

    Your brief might include graphs, charts, or other visual aids that make it easier to digest the most important information within sections. Policy briefs often include some of these sections: Title: A good title quickly communicates the contents of the brief in a memorable way.

  11. How to Write a Policy Brief

    Focus Attention and Connect the Dots. The way you write the policy brief can improve your chances of getting the attention of government. Focus on presenting solutions. As a partner on the ground, you are a trusted source of knowledge. Align your messages to government priorities. Part 5. Tell a Story.

  12. How to Write a Policy Assignment

    Policy briefs or briefing notes are documents written by governmental and non-governmental organizations to propose evidence-based policy solutions to a well-defined social, environmental, or economic issue. Briefs present findings from academic and grey literature to demonstrate the scope of an issue and to analyze its context and background.

  13. Getting Ahead: How to Write a Policy Brief

    Introduction: A policy Brief should begin by providing a concise background summary of the issue, without adding unnecessary clutter. Clearly explain why the matter is problematic, highlighting the consequences of ignoring the issue. A sense of urgency that incites the reader to continue is key.

  14. Writing the policy

    In general, select words carefully and use as few words as necessary to convey your point. The prose should guide the reader through the document. Avoid long, convoluted sentences (they are easy to misinterpret) and keep the policy itself as short as possible. Who should review policy drafts?

  15. Q. I'm writing a policy brief. Where can I find examples?

    Answered By: APUS LibrariansSep 15, 2022 21673. The following resources will help you find out what a policy brief is, the general content and format, and some actual examples of briefs. Important: you should always check your assignment's requirements and/or ask your instructor what their expectations are regarding brief content and format.

  16. Canadian Government Policy Cycle

    These implementation reports in the area of human rights cover economic, social, and cultural aspects and summarize Canada's policy initiatives in these areas at both the federal and provincial/territorial levels. For example, Promoting human rights, Canada's performance and reporting to the United Nations, and Canada's human rights commitments.

  17. PDF June 2020

    Practical Guide To Writing Briefing Notes In The Government Of Canada This policy brief has been funded by the Defence Secu-rity Foresight Group (DSFG), a network funded by the Mobi-lizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program that is designed to facilitate collab-oration and mobilize knowl-edge between the Department

  18. How to Write a Policy Brief: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

    How to Write a Policy Brief Download Article parts 1 Framing Your Issue 2 Building Your Structure 3 Writing Effectively Other Sections Related Articles References Article Summary Co-authored by Jennifer Mueller, JD Last Updated: December 30, 2022 References Approved

  19. Policy Brief Assignment: Helpful Resources

    Useful guide on how to write a Policy Brief, including types of policy briefs, and how they can be structured. VIDEO: Policy Briefs (5 min video from the UTM Library) ... Canada, and international think-tanks. Developed and maintained by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's library. Many think tanks have policy documents available for ...

  20. Resources for Writing Briefs

    All four brief types are described below. An Information Brief provides a summary of the research on a policy method, approach, or other related topic like behavioral economics or the Health in All Policies approach. An Issue Brief provides a summary of the best available evidence on a public health problem with policy implications. An issue ...

  21. 50 Free Policy Brief Templates (MS Word) ᐅ TemplateLab

    If you're tasked to make your own policy brief template, make sure it contains the following: Title An effective title communicates what's written in the document quickly but in a way that makes it easy for the readers to understand. Executive summary This section typically contains one or two paragraphs.

  22. How To Write A Public Policy Brief

    This video is from the course Master Public Policy Analysis: Advanced, where you will learn all you need to know about the policy analysis process. To learn ...

  23. Maintaining a Public Health Approach to Alcohol Policy During COVID-19

    This policy brief identifies ways to address higher-risk alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include limiting sales through reduced access to alcohol, lower numbers of alcohol sales outlets in a given geographical area, and minimum pricing. Policy changes that increased alcohol use in some areas are also highlighted.