How to Write a Briefing Paper

Reading time
6 minutes
Originally published Jul 01, 2017, updated Apr 29, 2021
How to Write a Briefing Paper

Typically, a briefing paper is to help government officials and policymakers pinpoint an issue without having to delve into details that they don't have time for. A briefing paper provides them assistance by bringing to attention one significant issue at a time. The reader gets filled in with the essential details necessary for the case.

Then, it proposes relevant and useful recommendations and solutions. An ideal paper is well-organized, concise, and highlights the most important facts and figures.

What is Included?

Although there are different forms of briefing papers, the standard version comprises an outline format. It usually takes up no more than two pages.

It will help if you start by asking yourself a few questions. These are:

  • Who makes up the intended primary audience?
  • What purpose will it serve? What has to be brought to the readers' knowledge?
  • What information should you include?
  • Why are you writing this?
  • How does it have to be formatted?

Format of the Paper

Let's take a look at the must-have ingredients:

  • Name Identification of the audience for the paper;
  • Date of preparation;
  • Contact for the briefing note: Mention your contact information, including mobile number and email ID;
  • Subject/issue: A concise sentence stating the significance of the briefing note;
  • Background: Provide context and information regarding past events. You can include previously taken courses of action;
  • Current status: Explanation of current situation, the people involved, and the decision made, etc.;
  • Essential information: Summarize crucial facts, developments, and key considerations in an unbiased manner;
  • Options/recommendations: Share the pros and cons of the options and provide any clear, direct, and evidence-based recommendations;
  • Conclusion: Reinforce the main of the briefing document.

Be Wise as You Determine the Scope

The scope should include the breadth and depth of the paper. It will determine the extent of detail you will be going into. Also, what and how many topics will you be covering? It should depend on two factors. The first being the information you could manage to find. The other; how much you think is enough to suffice. This part is crucial as it will enable the reader to find out the information you have covered and what you have left out.

Know Your Audience

Before you start to write any piece of literature, the first thing you should think about is your target audience. Who do you think is going to read this briefing paper? This will become a factor for driving your choices throughout the piece.

Here are a few questions you need to find answers to before you sit down to write:

  • Who is going to be on the other end? Business executives? Government officials? Journalists? Or, a combination of these?
  • How informed is this segment of your audience? Do the readers have prior knowledge or know nothing about it?
  • What authority does the reader have on this issue?

Plan Key Points

Never forget to map out an outline of the critical points you will mention in your paper. You can do this mentally, on a soft copy or a hard one.

Having a two-page limit means the document has to be condensed. Policy-makers already have a lot on their plates. They do not have all the time in the world to spare reading your issue. Hence, there should be no room for irrelevant points and long-winded explanations. By pre-deciding the facts, you will be reducing the risk of getting off track.

Consider Using a Template

It is fair to say that the formatting of this paper is not overly complicated. However, you can make the structuring even more systematic. Save time and download a free online template in MS Word. It will help to make the organization of your thoughts easier.

Create a name, date, and subject lines. If the template is not your go-to, set up your paper and create a name, date along with subject lines.

The name section corresponds to the recipient of this paper. The date should address the day this paper was submitted. The subject should comprise a few words and describe the central issue of the paper. It allows the reader to find out what the document is about without having to skim it.

Consider a Summary Section

A summary section is included at the beginning in some cases. Here, you will be expected to mention the highlights of the paper in bullet forms. An excellent way to go about this is by leaving a section for the summary. Complete your paper and come back to this at the end.

Having that said, a well-crafted paper should be concise enough to eliminate the need of having this section altogether. Nonetheless, it can be a great way to address urgent matters that require immediate action. Ensure that the summary does not exceed three to four bullet points.

Craft an Engaging Introduction

This next part should describe the problem or issue in a detailed manner. Initiate with a concise and impactful opening. It is labeled as "purpose" or "issue." It takes a couple of lines to describe the paper's primary focus and the reason for submitting it.

For instance, you can write something like: " Bullying based violent incidents is rising within the South County College district. Effective disciplinary policies may not be enough for addressing this problem."

Outline the Fundamental Facts/Background

This section is labeled as "background" or "considerations." It should have details regarding the state of the issue and emphasize the on-going development. Ensure that you are providing detailed information to allow the readers to form their stance on this issue. Anything that is not relevant should be excluded. No matter how interesting it might be.

If you have not indulged in research already, it is time to do it right now. You need the included information in the paper to be specific, accurate, and up to date. Avoid using technical language, jargon, or anything that does not concern the audience. Use data and statistics as appropriate, but make sure it is made easy for the audience’s interpretation.

Exclude Your Opinions

Keep it strictly factual. It is not a document to include your opinions and feelings about a particular issue. No matter what you think about it and what ways you think will be the best to resolve it, refrain from including them here.

After Completing, Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • Is it concise, clear, and easy to read?
  • Have I included all of the significant points?
  • Is my content attention-grabbing?
  • Did I proofread before submission?

Creating a briefing paper that can effectively deliver the details about a prevalent issue is not easy. Nonetheless, with the template above and the detailed breakdown, you can get a decent idea of how to craft one. Remember, keep it concise, relevant, and objective.

Angelina Grin
Creative Writer and Blog Editor

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