Writing a policy report requires you to grapple with a public issue, perhaps one already on the agenda of government policy makers or one that may arise. Some policy reports analyse an issue, using political and economic analysis to compare possible policy alternatives. Other types of policy reports brief policy makers on an issue and recommend a course of action to address a problem. Policy analysts in government, interest groups and policy research firms prepare policy reports. For students, writing a policy report sharpens critical thinking and research skills.
- Skill level:
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Select an issue or policy area of interest. Topics might include education, the environment, national security and defence, urban development or health care. Write about the background of the issue you choose, describing the scope of the problem to justify the need for government policy action. Be sure to address any previous policy actions taken on the matter. Your report should also discuss the possible consequences for failure to act.
Specify appropriate criteria against which to compare public policy proposals. The criteria should involve policy goals or positive outcomes that improve the problem in question. Examples of outcomes include economic benefits, reduced costs for taxpayers, improved student achievement, a cleaner environment or improved measures of public health.
Specify two or more possible policy solutions to the issue at hand. These solutions should consist of specific actions that could be taken by a legislative or executive body, rather than vague social changes that are beyond the scope of government policy makers. Compare the competing proposals, describing how and to what extent each proposal addresses the problem, based on the criteria specified in step 2. Comparison and analysis of policy alternatives will form the main body of your policy report. An effective paper should consider the immediate and long-term effects of policy proposals. Consider not only the policy merits, such as the costs and benefits of each alternative, but political factors as well. Policy-making occurs in an inherently political environment, so be sure to discuss the interest groups and stakeholders that could be affected---positively or negatively---by policy.
Recommend an action for policy makers to take, using empirical evidence from your analysis and comparison for support.
Write an abstract or executive summary, depending on the required format of your report. This section should be a concise summary of the report that will follow, briefly describing the issue or problem, and highlighting the recommended policy action.
Tips and warnings
- Use charts and graphs, where applicable, to compare and contrast policy proposals.
- Write your report in clear language that emphasises active voice over passive.
- Keep your report as free of government or policy jargon as possible.
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