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Writing Effective Public Policy Papers Young Quinn

Writing Effective Public Policy Papers Young Quinn

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Published by: BelmaGijo on Aug 07, 2012
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In sections four and five, the focus turns specifically to the policy paper. This section

gives you the opportunity to get an overview of the essential qualities of the policy

paper, including its purpose and context. Through continued contrast between the

policy papers produced in the fields of policy study and policy analysis, the main type of

policy paper focused on, i.e., policy study, is introduced and overviewed. Section five

will focus in detail on the common structural and textual elements that go together to

form a policy paper produced in the field of policy study. Although these two sections

are divided in this guide for the purposes of clarity, they should be seen as two parts

comprising a comprehensive description of the policy paper.

In giving an overview of the policy paper, two general points should be addressed:


The policy paper as a decision-making tool

Whether produced in a policy study or policy analysis environment, the policy paper is

a problem-oriented and value-driven communication tool. As such, whether targeting

other policy specialists or decision-makers, the purpose of the policy paper is:

to provide a comprehensive and persuasive argument justifying the policy

recommendations presented in the paper and therefore, to act as a decision-making

tool and a call to action for the target audience.

In brief, achieving this purpose usually involves the following approach:

–defining and detailing an urgent policy issue within the current policy framework

which needs to be addressed;

–outlining the possible ways (policy alternatives) in which this issue can be


–providing an evaluation of the probable outcomes of these options based on an

outlined framework of analysis and the evidence from the current policy


–choosing a preferred alternative (policy recommendation) and providing a strong

argument to establish why your choice is the best possible policy option.

The policy paper

is a decision-

making tool



The policy paper: applied, not academic

As is evident from the approach and purpose, the policy paper is considerably different

from a traditional academic paper, in that the findings of the research must be applied

to the issue in question and used to argue for a specific set of recommendations to

address the problem. As such, central to the paper is the problem-solution relationship

and this is the driving force in producing a policy paper which is clearly targeted and

focused on arguing for a particular policy recommendation.

In taking this targeted approach, the writer needs to find a balance between two

competing factors:

–the need to provide a comprehensive problem description and discussion of the

available policy options within the current policy framework, which may also

include the results of the writer’s primary research, so that the outlined position

seems credible and allows for informed evaluation;

–and the need to present this in a way that only the relevant knowledge and data

necessary as evidence to support the argument is included.

In fact, Bardach (1996) points out that one of the most common errors that policy

paper writers make is to try to include all the data and knowledge produced in the

research process.

Also, the idea of the policy paper as a value-driven argument rather than a piece of

cold objectivity is another major difference between the policy paper and traditional

academic papers. In your paper, there is a necessity to recommend practical solutions

for real-world problems to a broad and highly politicized audience. While based on

rigorous analysis, there is therefore an evident need for you as the policy specialist to

take a position on what you feel would produce the best possible outcome to the

problem discussed. Hence, the normative aspect of your decision-making and

evaluative process is also a key element of the policy paper.

4.1Different Types of Policy Papers:
Policy Study and Policy Analysis

As discussed in section three, the policy paper is the main communication tool used

by policy specialists to disseminate the outcome of their policy investigations to the


The policy paper

argues for the

application of a

particular solution

to the policy issue




public policy community. For those primarily involved in policy study, the primary

target audience for their papers is policy specialists engaged in the field of policy

study or policy analysis. There is a direct link between the two fields in that policy

analysts base much of the writing of their policy papers on the papers produced by

policy researchers. However, the policy papers produced by policy analysts are

considerably different because they are targeted directly at decision-makers and

heavily influenced by the nature of their close relationship with their clients. The

following table illustrates these and other differences:

Areas of Difference

Type of Policy Paper

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