How to write a briefing paper: a short and concise note

2  SUMMARY OF FACTS

Background: This basically give the reader a history of how the current situation came to be. It answers questions like’ what led to the current situation?’ or ‘how has it evolved since it started?’

Current status: Details the current situation of the matter and who is involved.

Key considerations: This is a summary of everything that needs to be considered now. While this is a summary of important facts, developments and considerations, it should be as unbiased as possible.

Statements should be substantiated with evidence therefore one needs to double check facts before presenting them. Reader’s needs should be put in consideration when selecting facts to be presented.

Options: This is basically observations and meanings of key considerations, description of the options available and their advantages and disadvantages.

This is a summary of what the reader should infer from the note. Nothing new should be introduced at this point and if you want to offer recommendations, it should be the best and most sound advise you can offer.

Before you start writing, be sure your are clear about

Written briefings are usually done in the form of briefing notes. A briefing note is a short paper that quickly and effectively informs a decision-maker about an issue. A useful briefing note distills often complex information into a short, well-structured document.

Briefing notes usually deal with «issues»—subjects of debate. But briefing notes are also prepared for any topic someone needs to be informed about. It might be a policy matter, a situation, a report, action by another government—in fact, anything that government deals with.

Briefing notes are typically written for those senior-level decision-makers who

  • have to keep track of many, often unrelated, issues
  • may not be familiar with the issues and may not have any related background
  • for whatever reason, cannot spend time doing their own research
  • need a capsule version of the key points and considerations about an issue

A well-prepared briefing note quickly and efficiently fills a person in on an issue. The most valuable BN is clear, concise and easy to read. To succeed, a briefing note should be:

  • short: one to two pages, and always as short as possible
  • concise: a short document isn’t necessarily concise; concise means every word is used as efficiently as possible
  • clear: keep it simple and to the point; always keep your reader firmly in mind and include only what matters to that reader
  • reliable: the information in a briefing note must be accurate, sound and dependable; any missing information or questions about the information should be pointed out
  • readable: use plain language and design your BN for maximum readability (use white space, subheadings, lists, font, and other means of making reading easier)
  • why you’re writing the BN (your purpose)
  • who you’re writing the BN for (your reader)
  • what that person most needs to know
  • the points you will cover
  • how you will structure your information
  • Is the purpose of the briefing note clear?
  • Is the language simple, economical and clear?
  • Is everything there that needs to be there?
  • Is anything there that isn’t essential to the purpose?
  • Is the BN easy to read, understand and remember?
  • Do the sections lead logically from one to another?
  • Is the BN designed so that it is inviting to the reader?
  • Is there a good balance between white spaces and text?
  • Has the briefing note been carefully edited and proofread?

Writing a Briefing Document

In order to utilize tips for writing a briefing document you must understand the purpose of this type of document. Briefing documents are used across many different professional genres in order to address issues in a formal way.

Not only do these documents present an issue formally, but they also allows others to agree that the issue needs to be addressed, and allow people to come to a formal resolution.

It is very important that the briefing document identify the issue in the most concise manner possible and propose a solution. In order for a briefing document to be effective in presenting information it should:

  • Be brief, hence the term briefing document
  • State all issues and solutions clearly
  • Be persuasive, as one of the purposes of a briefing document is to get others to assist agree on the issue and help with its resolution
  • Present information in an informative and practical manner.

Any issue that is mentioned should be confirmed with evidence and the solution should be feasible.

Here are some tips for writing a briefing document that should be followed in order to ensure that the information is presented in the correct manner.

  1. Create structure — Your briefing document should be written in a structured format. The structure should consist of parts that include the issue or topic, background information on the issue, the current status of the issue, important details, options for resolving the issue and the conclusion or recommendations.
  2. Keep it simple — The briefing document should be no longer than two pages. Likewise, it should get directly to the matter of the issue. Make the most use of your words to get your point across without being verbose.
  3. Research for reliability — When presenting information on an issue, it is very important that all the details are factual and reliable. Other individuals will be relying on the information to determine whether or not they will support the resolution of your issue. Make sure to do research and back up any claims with evidence.
  4. Make it easily accessible — The main purpose of briefing documents is to put concerns out in the open so that they can be addressed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most of the people reading briefing documents do not have the time to shuffle through papers or research to follow along with your proposal.

It is very important that you take the time make this document accurate, easy to read and easily accessible.

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Include the name of who you’re writing the briefing document for, the current date and the subject of the briefing note at the top. Many briefing notes start off with a “Purpose” section, which is used to identify the reason for the note. This will help alert the reader about why this information is important to them.

The purpose of this document is to inform the president of the details relating to the police incident in our Saint Louis office on September 3. As the incident has become national news, the president may receive questions from members of the media.

Alternately, some briefing notes start off with an “Issues” section, where you can include any problems at hand that need to be solved.

Format of a Briefing Paper

Much as there are many variations in the standard format of a briefing note, it should have three main parts which include:

As the name suggests, briefing papers are meant to be short. Generally, you’ll need to keep your paper under two pages so it is easy to read and absorb. The purpose of a briefing paper is to inform the recipient about a complex issue, provide the context at a high level and include recommendations for what to do next.

This helps him to be aware of the highlights in order to make any necessary decisions or complete any related tasks. Briefing papers are written in clear, plain language, and often include bullet points instead of dense paragraphs so they are easy to scan.

If it is the first time you have been assigned to craft a briefing paper, you may not have a clear understanding of how it should look like. Here, you will find the most effective tips for writing an excellent briefing paper that is worth an A-grade.

  • Identify the broadness of your topic: The very first step you should take is to check all relevant materials on the topic and make sure that there is enough information to reveal your theme. Keep in mind that identifying the paper scope is of the utmost importance.
  • Ask yourself “Who is my target audience?”: It is not a secret that every time you are going to present some topic, prepare a speech, or conduct research, one of the must-steps to take is to identify who will listen to your paper. In the case of the briefing, usually, the audience includes journalists, politicians, and media people.
  • If at the moment your audience is a college/university professor who will evaluate your ability to write a persuasive briefing, imagine that in front of you, there are government officials. There shouldn’t be any difference in the paper quality even if now you are just learning how to write a briefing.

  • Prepare a clear outline and stick to it: Bear in mind that the name of the paper “briefing” is from the word “brief,” which means it shouldn’t be too long. Write a page or two and remember that you are supposed to present only the most significant points avoiding unnecessary information that doesn’t have any value for the discussed problem.
  • Look for the relevant information: Depending on the paper topic, it may be more or less problematic to find the necessary relevant materials. Take this into account and don’t postpone paper writing for long. Taking into account that a briefing paper is a presentation of the collection of facts, you should look for the reliable sources of information able to provide you with the access to the factual information you can rely on
  • Search for a proper briefing example: With the help of the Internet, it has become much easier to find anything you need for the successful studies. It will take you a couple of minutes to find the well-structured sample and have it in front of you when writing a briefing paper.
  • Proofread your paper: At the very end, when you have finished writing, you are recommended to reread your writing once again or even for several times until you understand that you have done a good job. It is a good idea to ask somebody to proofread your paper or at least to listen to how it sounds because sometimes it is difficult for a writer to be 100% objective. Take this into account and edit your paper, if necessary. Make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes using the specially designed online checkers.

If you compare the briefing paper format with other papers, you’ll notice a lot of differences between them. These peculiarities should be attentively preserved in your writing. The right format for a briefing paper is of the utmost significance.

  • Write your name, the date, and the topic title.
  • Start with the statement on the problematic issue.
  • Give some information about the stages of the development of the current issue, provide the comparative analysis of the situation in the past and at the current moment.
  • Include a bullet list with the key points with the summary for each of them.
  • Write the conclusion (in this section, you can express your personal point of view, including the consideration of the most effective problem solutions. However, you should prove it with the persuasive evidence).

As you can see, writing a briefing paper isn’t as easy as ABC. However, you can turn this time-consuming process into entertainment by getting useful knowledge and skills, which will be very helpful in everyday life.

A writer tries outline a particular issue as well as its background on how to write a briefing paper then suggest some sort of solutions even describes an applied a countermeasure then finally propose a form of improvements for the issue. Knowing how to write a briefing paper is a very useful set of skill for students, all business professionals, politicians as well as community activists

Before a writer starts working on paper, he or she must be sure to have clear mind about few things such as the following:

  • Why he or she must know how to write this kind of paper
  • Who the briefing paper is intended for
  • What his or her reader(s) must know
  • Theses that the author will describe in report
  • What kind of structure the writer must use

A persuasive note is concise, well organized and covers the most salient facts with solutions. Here are some of the steps to get started:

  • Describe the issue pertaining: this is one of the crucial steps. The writer must first try to differentiate the cause of the problem or issue to be discussed from the symptoms. This is because once he or she have the full knowledge of what the cause might be, then he or she will have less time to find an appropriate solution to the problem at hand. A simple example could be the village children or teenager. At first, you might think they don’t even have education in their respective minds but the truth might probably be transportation to and from the school or maybe there is no school available for them. Therefore, the writer must try to summarize the problem in his or her notes. He should be concise in describing the issue within writing a briefing papers. Shown the cause of the problem first and then later outline the symptoms. In the example above, the writer should be able to describe in details the lack of transportation for them in the village and/or the non-availability of schools and/or good school to them in the village. In addition to this, he must then relate how those problems contribute to the low school attendance and/or the lack or absence of education for the children and teenagers in villages.
  • Meet the needs of your audience: apart from having a very good as well as standardize description of how to write a briefing paper, the writer must understand that the readers of his briefing note should be understandable to them at very first glance without having to struggle to find the particular aim of the article. This means that any write-up about the issue of how to write a briefing paper must be in an easy to understand language. Think of your readers likewise everyone involved in the issue within the scope of how to write a briefing paper. Another important thing to remember is trying to avoid technical jargon or any details that might sound confusing. Leave the chance for each reader to find the answers to their questions in your briefing paper. Imagine as you write in your booklet or paper all of the logical questions any reader might have about the issue and answer them in your how to write a briefing paper
  • Propose a solution or some sets of solutions in your paper: persuade your audience to believe that your paper has a lasting solution they that will forever resolve the issue. Try to explain then describe your solution(s) as well as the reasons for such kind of solution. Use documented data and facts to support your arguments. Present several available solutions. If it is a new or difficult problem, you might not have one effective solution in mind. Think of different possibilities and present each as an option. Provide history or evidence related to how each solution was effectively used in some other kind of situations in the how to write a briefing paper. Outline the consequences. Describe what these costs would be to the individuals or communities involved. Be specific and also include all necessary facts to reveal that you have thoroughly contemplated the issues.
  • Write a conclusion: in a brief sentence, try to summarize the issue, the analysis of the issue and your recommendations.

In general, the format of a briefing paper includes all of the above-described points plus some other additions such as the following:

  • The background of a briefing paper
  • A proposed solution(s) 
  • An appendix containing important statistics or charts

The characteristics of briefing paper are listed below:

  • They are short and succinct: a briefing paper must not be too long and even if it has to be long, it must be briefly written and expressed clearly
  • Usually written in outline format: a briefing paper must be described or must a plan trying to show only the essential attributes of something rather than its detail
  • Will seldom exceed two pages in length: a briefing paper can be 2 pages or less but in cases where it has to be more than 2 pages long, it must state its issues clearly and no useless or unnecessary points

There are some components of briefing papers or layouts to know in order to have a perfect and easily understandable briefing paper. These components include the following:

  • must include a name — to identify who the briefing paper is intended for
  • must include date — date of preparation of the briefing paper
  • must include the subject — the topic or issue of the briefing paper
  • must include a background — a briefing paper gives a summary of past as well as the current events that provide a context for the topic or issue including ay policies or past practices
  • a briefing papers must include the analysis — this identify significant aspects of the topic or issue, it also identifies the options or courses of action that should be considered including details about the merits as well as demerits of each analysis in how to write a briefing paper, identify actions currently taken or recommended to address the issue
  • must include cautionary notes — also identify any sensitive parts of the topic or the problem that may affect a person or an organization in a negative way
  • must include contact — the name and contact information of the writer of the briefing paper

All briefing paper have their uses independent of whether it is for a company, organization or for an education purpose. Understanding how to write a briefing paper includes the following:

  • A summary of an issue in how to write a briefing paper: using brief sentences and without any non-important ideas or solution, any briefing paper should only be the summary of an issue concerning a particular organization or parastatals
  • Explain a situation that needs correcting inside a briefing paper: while writing a briefing paper, it should only contain the explanation to the situations which requires some corrections and not some issues or cases that has already been solved or corrected
  • Identify any financial implications in how to write a briefing paper: in dealing with a situation which requires the use of cash to solve it, the writer must clearly state and indicate where necessary the monetary risk(s) that might be attached to the solution in his or her briefing paper
  • A briefing paper also suggest a plan of action including any form of arguments for and/or against the recommended action that the writer has written in his or her briefing paper
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