What is a briefing paper and how do I write one?
What is a briefing paper?
A briefing paper, or briefing note, is a document that is used to inform decision makers (a board, a politician, etc.) on current issues. It is a clear and concise document that summarizes an issue and identifies key pieces of information like a situation that needs to be addressed and the financial implications. Briefing papers can also offer recommendations on how to address the issues.
What is included in a briefing paper?
While there are many forms, briefing papers are typically written in an outline format and usually do not exceed two pages.
Here are some questions to consider when sitting down to write the briefing:
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is the purpose? What does the reader need to know?
- What information do I need to include?
- Why am I writing this?
- How will I format this document?
Here is an idea of what to include in a briefing paper:
- Name: Identify the audience for the briefing paper
- Date of preparation
- Contact for the briefing note: Include your contact information including phone and email
- Subject/issue: A concise statement of the subject or issue and identifies why the briefing note is important
- Background: Give information on past events or issues to provide context. How did we get here? What previous actions were taken?
- Current status: Explain the current situation, who is involved, what decisions are being made, etc.
- Key information: Summarize important facts, considerations, and developments in an unbiased manner. You want to include all of the important information needed for a decision maker to make a decision about the issue. Provide evidence and double-check your facts.
- Options/recommendations: Share the pros and cons of the options and provide any clear, direct, and evidence-based recommendations.
- Conclusion: Summarize the key information shared in the briefing document
After writing your briefing, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it clear, concise, and easy to read?
- Did I include all of the important information?
- Did I include information I may not have needed?
- Will this briefing grab my audience's attention?
- Did I proofread and edit correctly?
Do you have any examples of briefing papers/notes?
Developing a briefing paper. (n.d.) https://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/frame_found_sr2/tns/tn-21.pdf
Doyle, S. (2013). How to write a briefing note. ENG 302: Writing for Government. https://web.uvic.ca/~sdoyle/E302/Notes/WritingBriefingNotes.html