The document you will produce, a policy brief, is something lobbying groups often show to policymakers (e.g., members of Congress). Policy makers have very limited time – typically they spend only 30-60 minutes on any given task before moving on to the next item on their schedule, so lobbyists (and others) have only a very short window of time to get policymakers focused on their favored policy.As a result, policy reports must be brief, to the point, jargon free, and written for people who are not specialists in the policy area.The best way for you to become familiar with the genre is by looking at examples. Here are some links which will provide you some:
- Dr. Rebecca Kreitzer’s policy classes.(Focus on the longer briefs from her Gender and Sexuality Policy course, the second carousel of sliding links)
- Harvard Kennedy School Policy Briefs
- “Paid Parental Leave in the United States,” Dr. Barbara Gault et al. (This one is much longer than what you’ll be asked to do, but is similar in content.)
- Here is one useful primer for writing a policy brief, and here is another one, presented itself in the form of a policy brief (start reading on pg. 5).
- Project Content: In general, your task is to convince the reader thatthe government should adopt a policy because that policy would solve a problemthat currently faces society. Breakingthis down a bit, this means the paper needs to do all of the following:1. Identify a problem the country currently faces.2. Identify the current policy or policies meant to address the problem.3. Argue that the current policy does not adequately address the problem.4. Propose a new policy5. Argue that the new policy would address the problem more effectively.6. Provide a political strategy for enacting the new policy.Every effective policy brief must do allsix of these things. (The only exception is that, occastionally,a student will identify a problem for which there is no current policy. This makes #2 moot, and changes #3 to “Arguethat doing nothing is part of the problem.”)However, the brief should not necessarily do them in this order. THE FOCUS OF THE BRIEFSHOULD BE ON THE NEW POLICY, AND THE PROJECT’S THESIS IS (SOME MORE SPECIFICVERSION OF) “ADOPTING THIS POLICY WILL BENEFIT SOCIETY.”
- Sources Youwill need to consult a variety of sources. Many good sources are accessiblethrough the university library and university sponsored databases. Some ofthese include:·LexisNexis Academic — offers a searchablearchive all major newspapers and periodicals which cover politics. The best sources typically are The Washington Post, The New York Times, RollCall, and The Hill. ·Congressional Quarterly WeeklyReportand National Journal – These are the leadingweekly magazines devoted specifically to coverage of Congressional affairs, andboth have searchable archives. The National Journal’s site also contains linksto the most recent editions of TheAlmanac of American Politics, Poll Track, The Hotline and several othersources of congressional information.·Congress.gov – provides searchable information on all bills introduced inCongress dating back several decades, as well as links to other useful cites(scroll to the bottom).·Center for Responsive Politics – tracks the activityand flow of political money. Keeps track of individuals, businesses, interestgroups, SuperPACs, and parties.·Google Scholar and Jstor – Searchable repositories of scholarly work. You should usescholarly work which demonstrates the the effectiveness (or lack thereof) ofcertain policies as evidence for why your policy is better than the one youwant to replace.Sources to Use with ExtremeSkepticism: Some sources are biased. You can use them to help identify thevarious views and arguments that exist and are used by the people who careabout your issue, but their conclusions should not be used as evidence or tounderline your argument. Rather, thesesources are propaganda meant to influence public opinion and you should treatthem as such:·Materials directly from interested parties (members of Congress,interest groups, etc.)·Materials associated with a partisan slant or viewpoint.·Web materials associated with a news source that has proven overtime to have a partisan or ideological slant.
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