Policy Engagement and Briefs

4 hours

Through input, discussion and practical activities, students learn what policy briefs are and how researchers and advocacy groups use them to influence policy making and implementation. They appreciate the need for knowledge translation and effective communication with non-scientific audiences in order to achieve impact on policy and practice.

By the end of this session, students can

  • Describe the key components of a policy brief.
  • Explain the purpose of a policy brief for a particular context.
  • Write a policy brief.

Make and practise a PowerPoint presentation to introduce the topic.
Share a number of policy briefs with students.
Find or design a set of practical tips on writing a policy brief.
View and prepare to screen the suggested video case study (or find an alternative), design guiding questions for group discussions, and line up screening logistics, such as the projector and speakers for an in-person session.
Select two or three other case studies (in document or video format).
Identify and invite a guest speaker to present on their experience in knowledge translation.

Use these resources to prepare. You may consider sharing some with the students.

Essay assignment: the use of policy briefs to influence the tobacco industry.
Group work: design an infographic for a policy brief.
Individual or group assignment: write a policy brief on your own research or an assigned study.


Time Step Who
15 minutes 1. Define “a policy brief” Facilitator
45 minutes 2. Screen and discuss a case study Facilitator, plenary
30 minutes 3. Learn about knowledge translation Guest speaker, plenary
45 minutes 4. Develop a policy brief Individuals or groups
45 minutes 5. Present outlines and discuss conclusions All students, facilitator
Step 1. Define “a policy brief” 
15 minutes

Present an introduction and overview, including examples, types, components, purpose, and potential impact of policy briefs.

Step 2. Screen and discuss a case study 
45 minutes

Introduce, screen and discuss the suggested video case study (or an alternative).
You could ask questions such as:

What is the problem?
Who are the actors? What are their interests in the outcome?
Who is the audience for a policy brief in this example?
What is the desired result of a policy brief in this case?
What evidence from research would you include in a policy brief?

Step 3. Learn about knowledge translation 
30 minutes

The invited guest speaker shares one or more examples of policy briefs. They describe their experience of distilling research findings into core evidence and arguments that are clear and thorough, yet brief enough to capture the attention of targeted decision-makers.

Students have the opportunity to ask questions about the example/s and the process, skills and impact involved in knowledge translation. The group discuss strengths and limitations: How effective is a policy brief as a mechanism for knowledge transfer?

Step 4. Develop a policy brief 
45 minutes

Share tips on writing a policy brief and/or screen a video with guidance. Then, individually or in a group, students outline a policy brief, based on their own research project or an assigned example.

Step 5. Present brief outlines and discuss conclusions 
45 minutes

Students present their outlines in plenary and discuss insights and challenges. For each brief, peers identify three strengths and three points of clarification. As facilitator, note the main points arising from the discussion and share them during or after the session.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

CARTA Curricula Copyright © by The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book