How to Write a Public Policy Memo
While writing a public policy memorandum may not be the most common paper assignment, the structure of public policy papers is different from typical papers and requires certain elements and sections in addition to the traditional thesis, introduction, and conclusion.
Policy papers typically have one main agenda: address a current issue or policy and propose/evaluate alternative policies which seek to improve the current state. Policy papers tend to be very methodical, as a similar process is used each time to evaluate the different policies you are advocating to your client. While literature papers focus primarily on textual analysis and building one's argument, policy papers focus much more on organization, thoroughness, and execution. Basically, if your client only has 15 minutes to read your policy memo during his/her commute from the office to city hall, you want to make it easy for him/her to navigate through your paper.
When writing a public policy paper, remember:
Policy papers always have a very specific audience. Your paper/policy memo was either commissioned to you by someone, or you are directing your analysis towards a certain group/individual. Examples of audience: Governor Schwarzenegger, Mayor Bloomberg, UC Regents, The Brookings Institution.
This goes at the very front of your paper and is a summary or abstract of your analysis. It is absolutely essential that you include your policy recommendation here!
Explains to your reader why the issue/policy you've chosen to investigate is important and relevant and what the current policy is. References to other research done on this issue can be included here, as well.
Let the reader know what criteria you are using to evaluate your policies. Economic feasibility, political feasibility, and environmental impact are common criteria. Criteria should also be unique to your chosen policy/issue.
These are the policies you are analyzing and evaluating in your paper. Alternative policies seek to improve on current policy and/or approach issues from different perspectives. These alternatives are evaluated on the criteria you've listed out above.
Projected Outcomes and Tradeoffs:
This section can be included in the evaluation of each alternative policy or set apart on its own. Much of your individual analysis and opinion falls under this section, as you are called upon to not only predict the effects and efficiency of your policies, but also assess the negatives and positives of your alternatives.
Recommendation and Discussion:
Here is where you finally decide among your alternatives and advocate your policy! Remember not to simply repeat what you have covered under Alternatives and Projected Outcomes and Tradeoffs, but explain why your client should follow your analysis and enact the policy you have chosen.
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