University Assessments: Policy Memo

Students often find writing policy memo’s difficult or at least something unfamiliar. One of the main priorities should be to think about the style of writing and the needs of the audience. The style needs to show technical competence and precision where the identification and application of concepts are concerned. You are unlikely to be asked to write for a generalist audience so theoretical and conceptual competence is important. Avoid emotive language such as massacre or brutality and select terms like direct violence or disproportionate use of force. Try to avoid bias in the writing because this will only offer a one sided account which seldom helps in the drafting of a rigorous policy memo. Never lose sight of the key instructions of the remit and when you write about background or historical context try to take any opportunities to link your prose back to the needs of the assessment. If your document is quite lengthy, ensure your executive summary reflects this and is not something of a token affair. Show evidence of serious background reading and do not merely rely on media reports in the formation of your ideas and understanding. Finally, ensure that you are up to date with the situation on the ground or in the theatre of conflict. Offering recommendations for action based on a military situation which no longer exists will not come across well.

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