Policy Research Paper

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The presentation and content of the memo should be polished, easy to understand, and free of jargon.

Writing professionally does not imply that you can’t be passionate about your topic, but your policy recommendations should be grounded in solid reasoning and a succinct writing style.

However, the general objective of policy memos is to examine opportunities for transformative change and the risks of on-going complacency. This section is where you explain in detail how you examined the issue and, by so doing, persuade the reader of the appropriateness of your analysis.

If you choose to argue for maintaining the current policy trajectory, be concise in identifying and systematically refuting all relevant policy options. This is followed by a description of how your analysis contributes to the current policy debate.

As much as possible, this criteria should be derived from your cost/benefit analysis. This is usually where other research about the problem or issue of concern is summarized.

Do not hide or under-report information that does not support your policy recommendations. Describe how you plan to identify and locate the information on which your policy memo is 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.

Incorporate devices such as capitalization, bold text, and bulleted items but be consistent, and don’t go crazy; the purpose is to facilitate access to specific sections of the paper for successive readings. University of Michigan--Dearborn, 2006; Writing Effective Memos. Provide a complete and informative cover page that includes the document title, date, the full names and titles of the writer or writers [i.e., Joe Smith, Student, Department of Political Science, University of Southern California].

If it is difficult to find information in your document, policy makers will not use it. The title of the policy memo should be formally written and specific to the policy issue [e.g., “Charter Schools, Fair Housing, and Legal Standards: A Call for Equal Treatment”].


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