Policy Brief

Policy briefs offer research findings and evidence-informed policy options in a synthesized, neutral, and user-friendly format to a nonspecialized audience. Policymakers prefer short, succinct, and easily accessible information that provides both evidence and actionable recommendations. The World Health Organization states that, “policy briefs improve the chances that policymakers will read, consider, and apply the contents of research summaries when reaching policy decisions.”

General Rules

  • Titles should be short, free of jargon, focused, and relay the key finding(s) or implication(s).
  • Focus on a single topic; limit the brief to a specific area of concern.
  • Aim for short and to the point, no more than 4-6 pages or no more than 3,000 words.
  • Use short paragraphs with several subtitles to entice and direct readers.
  • Briefs are more likely to be read if they are attractive, interesting, short, and easy to read.

Recommendations for Format

  • Introduction and Executive Summary/Key Findings
    Both appear on the first page.
    • The executive summary or key findings stand out to provide highlights of the brief.
    • The introduction discusses the significance of the study, entices the reader, provides a clear statement of the problem or issue of focus, and establishes policy relevance.
  • Methods/Methodology
    Brief, one paragraph
    • The common audience is not interested in research/analysis procedures.
    • Address the study aim and design with further details made available as a reference.
  • Findings
    This is typically the largest section of a brief and presents the results of the study.
  • Conclusion/Discussion
    Interprets the meaning of the data and provides concrete, evidence-based conclusions.
  • Implications/Recommendations
    Based on firm evidence.


  • Employ nontechnical, jargon-free language, and spell out initial acronyms.
  • Do not overuse statistics in text.

Graphic Design and Layout

  • Graphics:
    Usually, graphics are viewed first before reading text; bar charts and pie charts are most effective; keep graphics simple with legible labels and an explanatory title.
  • Tables:
    Use tables sparingly and consider graphs. Tables have catchy titles, highlight important cells, and are simple (4 columns, 6 rows); statistical significance is not necessary.
  • Bulleted Lists:
    Express complete thoughts, and use more than one or two words per bullet, ideally with groupings of 5-7 bullets. This provides a good visual break from the narrative.
  • Callouts:
    They are used to emphasize a salient point and should be structured as a sentence or sentence fragment in a larger font, bolded and/or in a different color.
  • Boxes and Sidebars:
    Reader can understand them without reading the main text; give a title; do not repeat the message from the text; make sure it adds something, is short, descriptive and stimulating.