Policy Brief

You will write a policy brief on a topic you choose related to an issue affecting the aging population. A policy brief is a short, neutral summary of what is known about a particular issue or problem. Its main purpose is to evaluate policy options regarding a specific issue for a specific policy maker audience.

The common audience for a policy brief is not interested in the research/analysis procedures conducted to produce the evidence, but are very interested to know the writer’s perspective on the problem and potential solutions based on the new evidence. Policy makers need to make practical decisions under time constraints, so your brief should provide evidence and actionable recommendations.

A strong policy brief will synthesize a large amount of complex detail so that the reader can easily understand the heart of the issue, its background, the players (“stakeholders”), and any recommendations or educated guesses about the future of the issue. In short, the purpose of your policy brief is to convince the target audience of the urgency of the current problem and the need to adopt the preferred alternative or course of action outlined and to serve as an impetus for action.

Your policy brief should be written in 12-point Times New Roman font and be double spaced. It should be three pages in length. Please remember that the title page and the reference page(s) does NOT count as a page in the page requirements. Include each of the following sections:


Is this a federal, state, or local policy issue? Who is your target audience? Identify stakeholders (those who are impacted). What do you know about the audience (for example, what is their technical knowledge, political or organizational culture or constraints, exposure to the issue, potential openness to the message)?

Your introduction should comprise about 15% of the brief.

Context and Importance of the Problem

The purpose of this section of the brief is to convince the target audience that a current and urgent problem exists that requires them to take action. The context and importance of the problem is both the introductory and first building block of the brief. As such, it usually includes the following:

  1. A clear statement of the problem or issue in focus.
  2. A short overview of the root causes of the problem.
  3. A clear statement of the policy implications of the problem that clearly establishes the current importance and policy relevance of the issue.

Your context and importance section should comprise about 25 to 30% of the brief.

Analysis of Current Policy Options

The goal of this section is to detail the areas that are lacking in the current approach or options being implemented and to describe both the need for change and the focus of where change needs to occur. It should include:

  1. A short overview of the policy option or options being considered or in practice.
  2. An argument describing why and how the current or proposed approach is failing.
    Note: It is important for the sake of credibility to recognize all opinions in the debate of the issue.

Your analysis should comprise about 25 to 30% of the brief.

Policy Recommendations

The goal of this section is to provide a detailed and convincing proposal of how the failings of the current policy approach need to change. It should include:

  1. A breakdown of the specific practical steps or measures that need to be implemented.
  2. A closing paragraph re-emphasizing the importance of action.

Your policy recommendations should comprise about 25 to 30% of the brief.

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