Writing a policy paper requires you to research any issues ofpublic concern in depth. It can be a problem that has not yetreceived the attention of policymakers or it can be an issue thatis an ongoing political debate. A policy paper determines theproblem at hand, describes its background, and offers aharmonious evaluation of options that policymakers could followto resolve the issue. The paper should offer a recommended courseof action for policymakers.
Comparing policy papers with other kinds of papers
One way to understand what policy paper is, is to compare it withother kinds of research papers:
- Discussion papers. They allocate research quickly to formsuggestions and comments for improvement or revision. Thesesuggestions may have been already presented at conferences butthey have not yet been published.
- Background papers. They outline current policies andalternative solutions to a certain social problem or issue.
The difference between policy papers and discussion andbackground papers is that policy papers usually begin with bothdiscussion and background ones using them as resources, but theyare more comprehensive in objective and scope.
Policy papers provide important analysis of a significant socialproblem that includes the research and develop a defensive plan.This plan is supposed to offer the solution to the problem andgenerate potential strategies for implementing the plan. Notethese three main things during the preparation of a policy paperthat will assist you to create a professional project:
- Try to identify main policy issues
- Use the most up-to-date and best research to help understandthese issues
- Explore the implications of the research for the design andconduct of policy
Requirements of the assignment
The requirements of the assignment include:
- Determine the issue of a public concern
- Gather information
- Consolidate this information
- Use it to the problem
- Create a set of possible solutions to the issue
- Offer a recommendation to the decision-makers based oneverything mentioned above
The first thing you need to do is to choose a general area ofinterest. Maybe you can conduct research for a company interestedin the presence of the internet and they want you to develop aninternet policy for them. In this case first you will need tolook at various similar businesses and see what experience theyhave with the internet. Maybe your professor would want you toprepare a paper that will need to persuade the school board thatstudents should have access to the internet. At this point youare getting familiar with what has already been done. Make sureto keep track of where your information comes from as you’ll needto go back to the sites later to include them in yourbibliography. Keep in mind that collecting information helps youfamiliarize yourself with what has already been done. In order tooffer your individual findings, you will need to conductadditional research.
Setting the goals
Once you collect background information, start asking questions.Think about what your goals are. The closer you identify theissue, the better your paper will be. If you’re writing a paperfor the company, think about the goals of the company. Customersupport? Increased sales? Or something else?
If you’re preparing a paper for your college assignment then youneed to ask yourself different questions. They may be thefollowing:
- What information are you looking for?
- Who will assess the authenticity of this information?
- What questions does the school board may have and how you aregoing to answer them?
Introducing the problem
In the beginning of your paper, you need to introduce the issueyou want to research and analyze. Whether you are writing aboutimproving achievement in education, universal healthcare, oranything else of a public concern, you should indicate a certainproblem and explain why it is important. Provide a set ofcriteria for resolving the issue. For instance, if you’re writingthe paper about universal healthcare, the raise in the number ofthose covered by insurance is the criterion that helps resolvethe problem of uninsured people. If you’re writing aboutimproving achievement in education, hire graduation rates fromhigh schools and enhanced scores on standardized academic testscan be the criterion to sole this issue.
When writing a policy paper, try to stay creative about yourpresentation. Keep in mind the three following things to makeyour point:
- Your audience. Since it is a policy paper, it will beprobably directed at policymakers, so try and explain the issueyou are presenting as well as the solutions you are offering asclearly as possible.
- The level of manipulation. Your discussion should raise thedesire of policymakers to set goals and collect a lot ofscientific information, as well as make an emotional appeal.
- Being advocative. Modern discussions of science advice topolicymakers outline unresolved debates. Think about whether youshould simply present possible solutions or advocate one solutionstrongly.
Using the historical context
Place the issue you are analyzing into historical context byexplaining how the problem appeared and highlighting previouseffect of analysis, if there are any, to address the issue. Youcan apply a range of sources to present the issue and priorpolicy responses in detail. For example, you can use thefollowing:
- Articles from school magazines
- Previous policy analysis
- Legislative materials
- Government reports
- News articles
Sum up the results of previous policy efforts and determine themain stakeholders – those individuals and groups who are likelyto be affected or affect new government policies taken inresponse to the problem.
Identifying policy options
You need to indicate a set of policy options that government mayfollow to resolve the problem. Make sure that the options includesubstandard policy measures aimed at the problem you’reanalyzing. You are writing a policy analysis highlighting broadereconomic, social, or political changes. The research on theproblem in previous policy actions will assist you to indicatepolicy proposals and craft approaches to address the certainproblem.
Comparing the alternatives
Contrast the policy alternatives highlighted in the prior stepusing the specified criteria. This will be the main section ofyour policy paper. Discuss how every alternative would meet thecriteria for the problem or solution indicated in your entry.Contrast policy alternatives with quantitative and qualitativemethods of analysis depending on the problem you’re discussingand the data you have. Quantitative methods a very effective inweighing anticipated benefits and costs of a policy solution.Also, think about political factors and explain how thestakeholders would be affected by different policy alternatives.
Recommending a policy action
You need to recommend a policy action based on the analysis ofthe alternatives. Provide reasons backed up by evidence andfacts, and explain why the policy solutions you have selectedwould be the best in addressing the issue in question.
Designing policy options
Reread the information you already have. You will probably noticesome patterns and what you have found. Of course, you will alsosee that you need more information to include in your research.But this time you know what you need to look for. Make sure thesources you’re using are appropriate and reliable. If you want toknow how to write a policy paper effectively, you need to consultreal policies as well as the scholarly sources you’re basing youranalysis on.
The hardest part of your research is to create several policysolutions. You are playing the role of the analyst so you need tooffer a range of possible options that the policymakers canconsider. Think about what options you can offer and what prosand cons they have. Note that even though the policymakers maynot have a lot of knowledge about the specifics of your issue,they may not want to read a lot of description. That is why youneed to provide some description and a lot of analysis thatconcentrates on the following:
- Comparing and contrasting
- Pros and cons
- Similarities and differences
The components of a policy paper
The basic components of a policy paper include:
- Description of the context and significance of the issue. Itis useful to identify the issue and frame it as a specificquestion you need to provide an answer to.
- Discussion of various policy options. These are the solutionsfor addressing the problem.
- Criteria for judging policy choices. This section is oftenmissed. Many students believe that everybody shares the sameideas of what the criteria for making a certain choice should be.However, this is not so. It is critical for the reader to knowthe reasons you a recommend one policy over others.
- Policy recommendation. Policy recommendations should comefrom the logical use of your criteria to the policy choices. Keepin mind that criteria are not equal and therefore it may behelpful to rank its importance. This will allow the readers toeliminate one policy choice from the list of others withoutfurther consideration.
Sections of the policy paper
The first section of the paper states the background and explainsthe need for a policy proposal. The last sections discuss yourplans for solving the issue and how practical your plan is.
- Entry. It contains a thesis that can be made in the form of apredicted findings of a proposal. Here, you also need to indicatethe issue.
- Schools of thought. Here, you need to map out the logic ofcause and effect related to the selected problem. You will needto conduct research to find out how academics differ approachingyour problem.
- History of the issue. This part will probably be alegislative history. Here, you need to provide a brief history ofyour problem.
- Players, stakeholders, and a process. Indicate thestakeholders – those who have something to win and loose fromyour proposal. Also, mention other players who play an importantrole in implementing a reform or legalizing it. Describe theprocess through which the solution will be decided.
- Data and analysis. It is better to present the data inappendix.
- Closing section. Your deductions should follow from youranalysis. Revise your thesis, remember the evidence you haveprovided, and sum up your logical argument.
- Findings. Logically combine together all the findings togenerate an effective deduction.
- Recommendations. You may offer further recommendations on theissue based on findings, logical deductions, and credible casualrelationships.
- Your view. State what is on your mind. If your paper suggeststhat the reform won’t be successful, you can make an argument whyit should pass.
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