Policy Paper


What is a policy paper?

Policy papers are different from the standard research papers in several respects:

  • They are usually addressed at a non-academic audience, such as a particular official, agency, or organization
  • They often focus on prescriptive questions. They may begin by diagnosing a particular issue or situation, and typically argue for a solution that will address that issue or situation
  • Often, policy papers are focused on being persuasive. The intention is to convince the target audience that your position is the correct one.
  • Evidence in support of a position is crucial. This is also important for research papers, but it tends to be absolutely critical in policy papers.
  • Policy papers are written efficiently. The audience often does not have much time and does not want to read a book on the subject. Indeed, often policy papers are accompanied by policy briefs which summarize the papers in a page or less.

Policy Paper Components

As with research papers, there is not just one way to write a policy paper.The University of Texas has a nice website with a detailed model, “Suggestions for Writing Policy Analysis”.

The basic elements of a policy paper include:

  • Description of the context and importance of the problem
  • Discussion of a range of policy options
  • The policy recommendation

Some Questions to Consider When Researching and Writing a Policy Paper

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your target audience’s current policy position?
  • What is the policy question that you plan to address (you should be able to state this as a 1  – 2 sentence question)?
  • What actors are relevant to the policy process you are addressing?
  • What are the possible policy options? Are these all realistic?
  • What is the criteria that you will use to choose the best policy option(s)?
  • What evidence backs your claims?

Policy Paper Examples