What Makes a Good "Policy Paper" ? Ten Examples

Many research reports contain interesting data, but fail to draw policy-relevant conclusions from them, or to present their conclusions in a compelling fashion.  Some of the most common shortcomings are: drawing implications that are not based on the data.  (Sometimes, the recommendations could have been written before the project was undertaken.); misinterpreting data to draw unwarranted conclusions  (e.g. if the data show that Option A is 0.1% more costly than Option B, this does not mean that Option B is clearly preferable.  It means that the two options cost essentially the same and that the choice should be made on other grounds.); providing generic recommendations that could pertain to almost any problem (e.g. “The government should provide subsidized credit...”); burying worthwhile conclusions here and there within the report, rather than distilling them in a concluding section.; drawing vague conclusions (“policy makers should take these findings into account when making decisions...”) or not drawing policy implications at all. This paper analyzes a sample of ten articles from the environmental economics literature that are particularly good in drawing policy recommendations or policy implications from empirical data.  Each article is summarized in terms of structure and content, and the things that make it particularly effective are discussed. The paper concludes by summarizing some of the elements of an effective policy paper.


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Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia