Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Gero 201: Home

Introduction to Gerontology--library session

Ask a librarian hours

Not finding what you need? Visit, chat, call, or email a librarian. We are here to help you succeed.

Fall and spring semester research help hours (EDT):

M-W: 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Th: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Fri    10:00 am-3:00 pm
Sun  1:00 pm-9:00 pm

Get help!

Policy brief

Policy Briefs

What is a Policy? A policy is a principle, intent, viewpoint, goal, position, or recommendation.

Policies provide guidance to decision-makers or advocacy to people who influence the decision-makers.

How to write a policy brief, Part I:

  • Identify the decision-makers you want to reach out to: President, Congress, agency heads, citizens, stakeholders, etc.

Influencers: constituents, voters, citizens, journalists, the population served and those connected to them.

  • Answer the question: What is the problem?
  • Ask: Who does the problem impact?
  • Analyze how the problem impacts individuals and society
  • List and evaluate existing solutions? Pros and cons?
  • Advocate for your position
  • Give references for your stats and sources

Start here: to take a look at NASW advice—click on Older Americans Act link, then download the Older American Act Issue Brief, to see a one page brief, addressed to Congress.

Example of a policy on caregiver leave—

Sample search: policy brief AND caregiver leave AND social workers

National Policy Statement (from the National Center on Caregiving, Family Caregiver Alliance)

“Family caregiving is typically at the core of what sustains frail elders and adults with disabilities, yet caregivers often make major sacrifices to help loved ones remain in their homes. Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA)—founded over 30 years ago in 1977—serves as a public voice for these caregivers, illuminating the daily challenges they face, offering them the assistance they so desperately need and deserve, and championing their cause through education, services, research and advocacy….”

Look for answers to the questions above, and identify some of the sections below. Is it a good example of a policy brief? Why or why not?

            *    *   *  

Include in a policy brief1 (use the bold headings as a template for your paper):

Title: A good title quickly communicates the contents of the brief in a memorable way. What is the problem?

Summary of problem and your position—what do you want to happen?: This section is often one to two paragraphs long; it includes an overview of the problem and the proposed policy action.

Context or Scope of Problem: This section communicates the importance of the problem and aims to convince the reader of the necessity of policy action. Who does the problem impact, and how does the problem impact both individuals involved or connected, and society at large.

Policy Alternatives—what are existing solutions? Pros and Cons? Is your solution an improvement on an existing policy, or a new policy?: This section discusses the current policy approach and explains proposed options. It should be fair and accurate while convincing the reader why the policy action proposed in the brief is the most desirable, based on evidence.

Policy Recommendations: This section contains the most detailed explanation of the concrete steps to be taken to address the policy issue. Advocate for your position.

Appendices: If some readers might need further support in order to accept your argument but doing so in the policy brief itself might derail the conversation for other readers, you might include the extra information in an appendix.

Consulted or Recommended Sources: These should be reliable sources that you have used throughout your policy brief to guide your policy discussion and recommendations.

Depending on your specific topic and assignment, you might combine sections or break them down into several more specific ones.

1Adapted from:

Finding general information on a topic of interest

Library catalog:

Encyclopedia of Social Work:

Social work with older people : context, policy, and practice  (Google print version)

Gale Encyclopedia of American Law:

Finding Policy—other sources of information and samples from NASW and other organizations: (copy and paste if link won’t work directly) (from the Social Work Policy Institute)

              What the NASW is doing to promote research and translate research findings into practice and programs. You

 can search for the articles listed in library databases, see steps below. Use InterLibrary Loan (ILL) if the library

doesn’t have access to the full-text of the article.

*    *   *  

Finding articles on your policy topic:

Use the library webpages to go to appropriate library databases and search for scholarly articles (Older Americans Act and policy.) Look for review articles by including the word “review” in the title field search.

Other search terms include: National Alzheimer's Project Act, the Elder Justice Act, adult protective services, mandatory elder abuse reporting, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, caregiver policy. What else?

Try to find government information. State info.: (Family and Social

Services Administration: Aging Services).

How to write a policy brief, Part II:

  1. After you’ve answered the questions in Part I to the best of your ability, you need facts and figures about the problem, who is affected, how the problem affects individuals and society, existing solutions (pros and cons), and background information, as well as identifying the decision-makers and who influences them.
  2. Start with the Encyclopedia of Social Work: at, type encyclopedia of social work into the search box.
  3. Example: if you want information on policies related to the Older Americans Act., search

"older americans act" policy in the Encyclopedia of Social Work.

  1. Click on an area of interest, such as Family Caregiving.
  2. Also try the Gale Encyclopedia of American Law; search for Family Caregiving as an example.
  3. Try EBSCO databases as usual to find more information on the problem you wish to address, say, Family Caregiving, in Social Work Abstracts, CINAHL, SocIndex, Military/Government, etc. Also try Lexis-Nexis.

At ND, try the Politics Collection database (includes the Policy File Index and PAIS). We don’t have that here.

  1. Don’t forget to cite your sources using APA style.

Worksheet to create a policy brief

Start to fill in the template on your topic with information from the Encyclopedia of Social Work, Encyclopedia of American Law, EBSCO databases, and Lexis-Nexis, plus any others you want;

write down citation information in APA style. When you are done, you should be able to write a good policy brief based on your notes on this worksheet!

Topic and search terms: _____________________________________________________

Title: _________________________________________

Summary of problem and your position—what do you want to happen?

(2 paragraphs, continue on back or start a Word document following this outline):


Context or Scope of Problem:

Policy Alternatives—what are existing solutions?

Pros of existing solutions:

Cons of existing solutions:

Is your solution an improvement on an existing policy, or a new policy? Does it address the

cons or weaknesses and gaps in existing policies?

Your Policy Recommendations (relate back to what you want to happen):

Appendices (if any):

Consulted or Recommended Sources (References):

Scholarly Communications Librarian

Profile Photo
Sue Wiegand
123 Cushwa-Leighton Library

Saint Mary's College