Young and Quinn’s Writing Checklist for Problem Definition

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109

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Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) summarizes the approach to writing a problem definition recommended by Young and Quinn  (2002, pdf on right).

Pal writes (p. 376-377):

Writing Effective Public Policy Papers (Young & Quinn, 2002) was originally designed to build policy capacity in Central and Eastern Europe, but draws from the global policy literature. Young and Quinn’s generic outline for a policy paper consists of title, table of contents, abstract/executive summary, introduction, problem description, policy options, conclusion and recommendations, appendices, bibliography, and endnotes. Along the way, they have useful tidbits of advice that reflect the collective wisdom of both the study and practice of policy analysis. “The importance of writing effective titles for papers is often underestimated, but it is significant that the title is more than likely the first part of a paper readers see and it begins the process of communicating the message contained in the policy paper” (p. 24). “The abstract briefly overviews the paper, while the executive summary provides a detailed synopsis of the whole paper” (p. 34). On problem definition: “This part of the introduction represents the move from more contextual information to the specific issue which is the focus of the policy paper. This feature is crucial in convincing your reader to share your viewpoint that an urgent problem exists and that your paper is worth reading because it will offer possible solutions to the problem. It is also important that this feature clearly communicates your position on the problem so that readers can understand the policy alternatives and recommendations you will propose later in the paper” (pp. 38–39). Similar to Smith, they also provide a list of questions to ask as you work on a problem definition (see Box 9.5).

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Writing to Persuade (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107.


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

Young, E., & Quinn, L. (2002). Writing effective public policy papers: A guide for policy advisers in Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: Local Government Public Service Reform Initiative. Available at, accessed 8 April 2017.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 8 April 2017.

Image: Young, E., & Quinn, L. (2002). Writing effective public policy papers: A guide for policy advisers in Central and Eastern Europe, at, accessed 8 April 2017.