Policy Issue Paper

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) discusses the meaning of a policy issue paper.

Pal (p. 353) draws on William Dunn’s book:

“Dunn also makes a useful distinction between policy issue papers, policy memoranda, and executive summaries. Other terms are sometimes used for the same products – for example, policy paper instead of policy issue paper – but the logic of the distinctions is virtually universal. Policy issue papers are longer, more detailed, and technical analyses of a policy problem, with consideration of options and recommendations (see Box 9.1).

“Whatever they may be called, policy memoranda are shorter pieces (rarely more than 3000 words), often in response to a specific request for background information, and designed for “quick and efficient reading” (p. 440). Executive summaries can be stand-alone documents (e.g., a two-page summary of a 100-page report), or the first section of a policy issue paper. They are challenging to write, since they must simultaneously be short and comprehensive.

“Whatever their length and level of detail, all three of these forms of policy communication are written and are part of an older form of communication. Modern decisionmaking relies less and less on straight textual communication, and more and more on visualizations of information and data. … the majority of policy communication from analysts to decisionmakers is in the form of some sort of presentation software, most likely PowerPoint.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Writing to Persuade (core topic) in Communication Skills and Atlas109 Leadership and Communication Skills.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Dunn, W. N. (2004). Public policy analysis: An introduction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 23 April 2017.

Image: ScienceDocs Inc., at https://www.sciencedocs.com/writing-a-research-paper-discussion/, accessed 8 April 2017.