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Law research and writing skills: Writing policy papers

What is a policy paper?

A policy paper/brief is an advocacy tool which is typically used to influence change on a broader scale. The writer’s aim is to produce a document to engage and persuade a target audience, usually non-specialist, that your proposed solution to a contemporary issue is practical, credible and necessary to create positive change.

What is its purpose?

The purpose of a policy paper is to convince a policy maker to advocate changing course on a specific policy issue. Governments often call for public submissions when they conduct an inquiry into a certain area of law, or amend or bring in new legislation. You might find a policy paper/brief is referred as a "policy submission", indicating  that the document is submitted to the policy maker for consideration.

Writing a policy paper

Resources and examples of policy papers / briefs

Examples:

There are many examples of policy papers online. Please note that these are examples only. Some of the examples below are submissions to law reform bodies, others may be called policy papers or briefs. It is important to follow the assignment instructions given by your lecturer.

Australian Law Reform Commission: 'Submission: Inquiry into child protection'

Resources:

Federation of Community Legal Centres, The Change Toolkit, chapter 7: 'Writing submissions'. The Change Toolkit homepage can be accessed here.

Catherine F. Smith, Writing public policy : a practical guide to communicating in the policy making process (Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 2016). Available in hard copy at Caulfield Library.

Research

The following resources are a selection of databases which may be useful as a starting point. As always, you will need to evaluate and assess your results and their relevance to your research.

Guidance for finding Acts, Bills, Explanatory Memoranda and Second Reading Speeches can be found on the Legislation tab on our Law Library Guide.