Winter 2016


This is your opportunity to put your knowledge into practice – to take some of the ideas and topics covered in the course, choose a specific social problem that you think you can solve, and write a memo to someone in a position to implement your recommendations. You are writing a memo to someone who is likely to be busy, who has a pile of memos and reports on his/her desk, and so has a limited attention span to devote to your proposal. Your job is to clearly, succinctly, and convincingly identify a problem, review what has been done in the past, and come up with a solution – one that can choose from among past solutions and make a case for why it is the best one, combine past solutions into your original synthesis, or come up with a proposal that is entirely new.

You are essentially role-playing: you assume a role (for example, head of a nongovernmental organization, student group, etc.), and write a memo to someone in a position to enact your recommendation (for example, the head of a corporation, nongovernmental organization, national or international government agency, etc.). Your memo is brief (8-10 double-spaced pages; see below for guidelines), to the point, readable, convincing. An outline is provided below – please adhere to it.

This is your opportunity to change the world – or at least a little piece of it!


Policy briefs should be 8-10 pages, double-spaced. Pages should be numbered, stapled together, and your paper should be typed in 12-point Times New Roman font with 1” margins. Your paper must include your name, your TA’s name, and section day and time. Use MLA style for all references, in-text citations, and footnotes. Significant deviation form this format will result in a lower grade. A summary cheat sheet can be found at

Please include 8-12 sources, chosen so as to make your case effectively. You may draw on class readings (either required or supplementary) and lectures, as well as other materials such as book chapters, articles, and websites. Even though your policy brief must deal with issues raised in class, you are not required to use class readings or lecture notes; do so only if they are helpful. Your TA, on a case-by-case basis, must make any exceptions to these requirements.

Policy briefs are due the last day of class, in class, at the end of class. Late policy briefs will be penalized 3 points for every calendar day they late. For example, a perfect policy brief worth 30 that comes in the following day gets only 27 points; if it comes in two days late, it gets 24 points. You are encouraged to discuss ideas, outlines, and/or drafts of your paper with your TAs during their office hours. It is important to clear your topic with your TA to be certain it fits within the general guidelines for the course.


This assignment should be viewed as a professional training exercise that has real policy implications if taken seriously, and should adhere to a general structure and language befitting the rank and station of the reader. The next few pages are a general structure that outlines a proper policy brief and how its content should be worded. You will be graded on grammar, spelling, organization, coherence, etc., as well as on content. Writing quality is important! If you have any doubts about your writing ability, start well in advance and consult with your TA during office hours.


TO: [name, position, organization]

The position and organization can real (e.g., TO: Dr. Jim Yong, President, World Bank; TO: Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director, Greenpeace; TO: Henry Yang, Chancellor, UCSB) or be made up. It is wiser to choose an actual organization, since you can then get information from its website. The person should be someone who is uniquely qualified or positioned to enact whatever policy recommendation it is you endorse – in other words, it need not be the top person in the organization (for example, if your proposal were to get the UCSB bookstore to purchase a line of sweat-free apparel, your might want to send your memo TO: Mark Beiseker, Director, UCSB Bookstore). DO NOT just take the easy way out and address your brief to President Barack Obama or some other high-profile public figure.

FROM: [your name, your position, your organization]

Use your real name, but you can make up a position within an organization. While you are free to make up a fictional organization, you would probably be better served by taking an actual organization so you can use its website in researching your memo. Examples: FROM: your name, Chair, Advisory Council, Worker Rights Consortium; FROM: your name, head of UCSB chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops; etc.

RE: [your proposed topic]

This portion of the paper is essentially a title; be as brief and to the point as possible. Example: RE: Proposal for UCSB bookstore to require all of its licenses to join the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

DATE: [the date you write your brief]


Your introduction should be 2-3 paragraphs long and should be as direct and to the point as possible. It should be written in narrative form (i.e., no bulleting; that will come later). It should:

1) Briefly describe the problem (including its recent history), making a case for why it is important and should be addressed
2) Explain why the recipient is uniquely situated or qualified to help deal with the problem

Constrain the history portion of your intro to the most recent developments and evidence that makes the case that this is a problem that needs to be solved.


This section sets the context for your policy recommendations; drawing 8-12 sources as discussed above. This is your opportunity to review what is known about the problem and what has already been done, including a brief summary of what has worked and what has not worked. Given the nature of this brief, it would be wise to present only 3-4 major ideas; the purpose is to show you have done some serious thinking about the problem, while not exhausting the recipient with too much irrelevant information. You could begin with a brief history of the issue, mention any current or pending legislation (if that is relevant), and review any solutions that have been proposed (examples of organizations proposing solutions might include nongovernmental organizations, governments, policy-oriented “think tanks,” etc.). If there are debates surrounding the issue, briefly mention the major positions. Feel free to bullet point, bold, and underline to organize the presentation of ideas and emphasize key concepts.


This is where you come up with a persuasive argument in support of your proposed solution. You should:

1) Propose your solution. This could be one (or more) of the proposals you have previously reviewed; a synthesis that draws specific ideas from the proposals you have reviewed, combining them in a novel way; or your own unique solution.
2) Construct an effective, logical justification for your proposed solution, weighing the pros and cons, taking into account possible obstacles for implementation, any foreseeable unintended consequences that might result (and how to deal with them), possible political complications, etc. Bolster your argument with evidence based on available research, such as statistical evidence or case studies.
3) If possible, address the concerns of the opposition, since the recipient of your memo will likely want to know how to alleviate those concerns.

The analysis section should be well organized, emphasize key ideas, and be highly readable. The recipient will have many competing demands on his/her time; if you hope to be convincing, you must also be engaging. This section can also be organized with bullets, numbering, italics, bolding and whatever literary instruments you choose to utilize.

Please do not pander to what you think may be the ideological beliefs of the intended recipient of your memo (or, for that matter, your TA or professor); making a convincing argument for what you expect might be an unpopular position will greatly strengthen your brief. Your TA will grade your brief on its merits, not its politics. The key is to be effective.


General Tips and Suggestions

1) Choose a topic that interests you. If you don’t care about your topic, it will most likely be reflected in your writing.
2) Don’t attempt to tackle too broad a subject; after all, you only have 8-10 double-spaced pages for this paper.
3) Do not just “shotgun” information in the hopes that the reader will follow along. Be well organized, logical, convincing. Take a clear position on the topic and make sure you outline it to the reader.
4) Organize your arguments. It often helps to make an outline or a brainstorming picture of those elements you want to include in your paper.
5) Run Spell Check! Check for proper grammar if your word program has that feature. Have a friend or classmate read your paper to you aloud. Together you will find errors of organization, syntax, coherence, and terminology that you may overlook if you read your paper silently to yourself.
6) Avoid verbose, flowery or accusative language. Put yourself in the position of the recipient of your memo, and try to think how s/he would react to your writing style.
7) Carefully follow the guidelines provided above. We have put a lot of time into preparing them; your grade will in part reflect the degree to which you follow our advice!

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