Writing a public policy memo

Policy Memo Writing Tips: Dec 8, Applicants often ask us to provide some guidance in writing a policy memo. Steve meets with students one-on-one during his office hours to advise them on their various writing assignments.

Writing a public policy memo

Bibliography Definition A policy memo is a practical and professionally written document that can vary in length from one page to over one hundred pages.

A well-written policy memo reflects attention to the research problem. It is well organized and structured in a clear and concise style that assumes the reader possesses limited knowledge of, as well as little time to conduct research about, the issue of concern. There is no thesis statement or overall theoretical framework underpinning the document; the focus is on describing one or more specific policy recommendations and their supporting action items.

Guide to Writing Effective Policy Memos. Political Science and Politics 44 January How to Approach Writing a Policy Memo Policy memo writing assignments are intended to promote the following learning outcomes: You should not approach writing a policy memo like you would an academic research paper.

Yes, there are certain commonalities in how the content is presented [e. It is focused on providing a pre-determined group of readers the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative or specific course of action. Writing a public policy memo this sense, most policy memos possess a component of advocacy and policy advice intended to promote evidence-based dialog about an issue.

Given these intended learning outcomes, keep in mind the following: Focus and Objectives The overall content of your memo should be strategically aimed at achieving the following goal: Avoid lengthy digressions and superfluous narration that can distract the reader from understanding the policy problem.

Professionally Written Always keep in mind that a policy memorandum is a tool for decision-making. Keep it professional and avoid hyperbole that could undermine the credibility of your document.

The presentation and content of the memo should be polished, easy to understand, and free of jargon. Evidence-based A policy memo is not an argumentative debate paper. The reader should expect your recommendations to be based upon evidence that the problem exists and of the consequences [both good and bad] of adopting particular policy alternatives.

Tips on Writing a Policy Memo

To address this, policy memos should include a clear cost-benefit analysis that considers anticipated outcomes, the potential impact on stakeholder groups you have identified, clear and quantifiable performance goals, and how success is to be measured.

Accessibility A policy memo requires clear and simple language that avoids unnecessary jargon and concepts of an academic discipline.

Do not skip around. Use one paragraph to develop one idea or argument and make that idea or argument explicit within the first one or two sentences. Include a table of contents and list of figures and charts, if necessary.

Subdivide the text using clear and descriptive headings to guide the reader. If it is difficult to find information in your document, policy makers will not use it. Practical and Feasible Your memorandum should provide a set of actions based on what is actually happening in reality.

The purpose is never to base your policy recommendations on future scenarios that are unlikely to occur or that do not appear realistic to your targeted readers.

writing a public policy memo

Here again, your cost-benefit analysis can be essential to validating the practicality and feasibility to your recommendations. Explicit Transparency Provide specific criteria to assess either the success or failure of the policies you are recommending. Do not hide or under-report information that does not support your policy recommendations.

Just as you should note limitations in an original research study, a policy memo should describe the weaknesses of your analysis. Be straightforward about it because doing so strengthens your arguments and it will help the reader to assess the overall impact of recommended policy changes.

Technically, your policy memo could argue for maintaining the status quo. However, the general objective of policy memos is to examine opportunities for transformative change and the risks of on-going complacency.

If you choose to argue for maintaining the current policy trajectory, be concise in identifying and systematically refuting all relevant policy options.Writing a policy memo to a group of subordinates is very different from writing to peers outside an organization or to superiors. Analyze the problem or issue and concisely state it at the beginning of the memo.

Examples of Policy Writing. David Morse and Elena Delbanco, Ford School Writing Instructors. We intend these samples—in most cases, taken from Ford School student writing—to be considered in conjunction with our Memo Writing Memo, which provides an explanation of.

Policy Memos Guidelines from the Harvard Kennedy School. Policy Memo Writing policy memos. From the Writing Studio at Duke University. A Public Policy Guide to Style for Authors of Policy Memos, Theses, and Reports. A memo’s final paragraph should clearly state the specific action(s) that the readers need to take.

This final paragraph might inform the recipients that they may enroll in person, by mail, or online, and include specific information about where and how to enroll (office locations, addresses, URLs, etc.). Below is an excerpt from Steve's policy memo writing guidelines he provides to the graduate students in that course: Purpose.

A policy memo provides information, guidance or recommendations about an issue or problem to a decision-maker. A policy memo is a practical and professionally written document that can vary in length from one page to over one hundred pages.

It provides analysis and/or recommendations directed to a predetermined audience regarding a specific situation or topic.

Effective Memo Example | UMUC