Communication Services & Information Technology
University of California
Communication Services & Information Technology

Policy Briefs

What is a Policy Brief?

A policy brief is a short, 2- to 6-page introduction or overview of research that has implications on existing or emerging policy issues in your community. A policy brief informs, clarifies or supports a position on an existing policy issue and provides important background information to inform decision makers.

The difference between a fact sheet and a policy brief is scale and intent. 

For example, a fact sheet on childhood obesity in California would contain an overview of research connected to the issue conducted by ANR. 

A policy brief would focus on a more specific aspect, such as links between the rise in childhood obesity and increased consumption of sugary beverages. It would summarize the research as well as take the next step to make recommendations to decision makers on solutions to the problem.

What is the difference between an academic paper and a policy brief? While both are based on rigorous research and aim to educate, a policy brief also aims to influence.

Academic publication Policy brief
Audience is others in the academic community  Audience is the general public and/or decision makers
Complex and comprehensive Focus on a single issue
Peer reviewed Overview
Less filtered politically Strongly written with common voice
Time consuming Brief
Objective  Findings invite or support action
 Evergreen Perishable


What makes a policy brief impactful?

  • Focused
  • Rigorous and academic in approach
  • Responsible, unbiased and reliable
  • Current and issue oriented
  • Applicable solutions to regional issues
  • Surprising

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Women's and Children's Health Policy Center has two excellent sample policy briefs that illustrate the difference between a weak brief and one with impact.

Example of a poor policy brief

Example of a strong policy brief

Now, consider these questions before going forward:

  1. What is the current or emerging issue addressed by my research?
  2. Can I identify the specific audience for my brief?
  3. Do I have rigorous, evidence-based information relevant to the issue?
  4. Can I demonstrate concrete evidence of the impact of the research on the issue?
  5. Can I provide applicable solutions or recommendations?
  6. Does my research elevate the value of ANR in the community?
  7. Am I willing to be a source of information to policymakers, community leaders and media on this issue?
  8. Am I willing to be a participant in the public discussion of the issue as it receives media attention and policy development?

Ready to get started?

Many thanks to Mike Miller of Brown-Miller Communications and to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Women's and Children's Health Policy Center

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