How to Write Policy Analysis Essays

Updated July 20, 2017

The policy analysis essay is a staple for almost any college program in political science, social sciences, health sciences or the humanities. What is a policy analysis essay? It is an essay about a current policy and its effects or outcomes. Alternatively, it could be an analysis of a proposed policy and its feasibility. Normally your professor will give you an outline of what the essay should include, so make sure you follow the instructions and fulfil all the requirements. Writing a great essay is much more than just research. The structure of your essay frames the information in a way that makes it understandable, and your personal writing style adds interest.

Read the policy itself. It is usually in the form of a policy paper, but it could also be a legal document such as a bill or an international agreement. Find out on what research the policy was based, what the policy's expected outcomes are, and the plan for implementation.

Research the policy and its background. This is one of the most important steps. You should be familiar with the issue the policy deals with. For example, if you are writing an essay on health reform, you should have a good understanding of the current health system, its history, its main strengths and weaknesses, and the principal actors in the industry.

Research the outcomes or potential outcomes of the policy. A policy is a plan for action - how is it to be carried out? If it is a current policy, is it getting the results that were intended? If it is a proposed policy, what factors will affect its implementation?

Choose a frame of analysis. You need to present some criteria on which you are evaluating the policy. For example, you could do a cost-benefit analysis, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), or a Critical Theory analysis. Often your professor will tell you what kind of analysis he or she is expecting.

Start with an introduction stating the policy and the relevant issues. Outline the sections of your paper and state your main recommendations or conclusions.

Provide the background information about the issue and your chosen policy.

Explain your frame of analysis and criteria for evaluating the policy.

Elaborate your policy analysis based on the previous information. This is the most important part of your essay, as it is the actual analysis.

List policy alternatives and briefly describe how they differ from the original policy based on the criteria you are using. If you have come to the conclusion that the policy you are analysing is not a good one, this is the section where you should explain which alternative policy you would recommend and why.

Conclude your essay by summarising your points and restating your findings.


Ensure that your essay follows the required format (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). Reread and edit your essay a few times before submitting it, or have a peer or colleague edit it.


A policy analysis is not a historical account. If you are analysing a current or recent policy, do not simply describe what happened, but explain why the policy succeeded or failed, and give recommendations for policy changes.

Things You'll Need

  • Sources (books, scholarly articles, etc.)
  • Copy of the original policy paper
  • Computer
  • Style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)
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About the Author

Sharon Kennedy has lived and/or worked in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas and started writing professionally in 2010. She currently works with the YMCA and volunteers with Journalists for Human Rights. Kennedy is a graduate of the University of Ottawa, where she completed a Bachelor of Social Science.