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The basis of good policy is good research!


Time: approx. 8-12 hours

A Roosevelt Network founder once said, “Colleges are already effectively think tanks; they just aren’t effective think tanks.” All the resources that you could ever need to write a great policy memo or 10 Ideas piece are on your campus. Before you begin your writing, high quality research is crucial. Speak with a librarian on your campus, complete the Policy Research Training and fill out the Literature Review worksheet to ensure you are best utilizing all of the resources at your disposal!


Choose 3-5 strong, peer reviewed sources to serve as the literature review for your policy brief during the writing stage.

Below is a list of questions to keep in mind as you evaluate your sources:

·      Who is funding the piece?

·      What are the author’s motivations behind writing the piece?

·      How old is it?

·      What kind of source is it?

·      What are you not being told?

·      Is there a political leaning or affiliation attached to the piece?

·      Who is the target audience?


Utilize your university: Be sure to check out what resources you have access to at your undergraduate  institution. Check out the library’s website or meet with a librarian.

Research Training

Literature Review Worksheet


How to

In this session:

•  What is policy research?

•  Types of Research

•  Sources of Information 

•  Research Suggestions

What is policy research?

•  Investigation to better understand the problem

• What is the cause(s) of the problem? • Is the problem what you think it is?

•  Survey of existing or potential policies •  Estimating the impact of a policy

• Is a policy effective? Does it work?

Importance of Research

•  Research must inform your policy proposals and/or decisions

•  It can also help narrow down your problem and root causes

•  Should be especially be inclusive of the ideas and viewpoints

of people directly impacted in communities. Research directly from the community should be combined with professional, academic and government information

Using research throughout the policy process

1.  Identifying problems and issues

2.  Understanding the context/history of issues

3.  Selecting solutions and action plans

4.  Evaluating and monitoring progress after implementation

??Types of Research

•  Existing Research/Legislation 

•  Secondary Analysis

•  Evaluation Studies

•  Qualitative Methods 

•  Surveys

•  Case Studies

•  Cost – Benefit / Effectiveness Analysis

Types of Research

•  Review of Existing Research: review of written materials relevant to the question/issue.

– Includes articles, discussions, stories, past experiences, reports, past bills, legislation

•  Secondary Analysis: Examining data from existing databases. – Statistical procedures with existing data/ correlational study

•  Evaluation Studies: quasi-experiments, randomized control studies

– Pre-Post Measurements

– Treatment and Control/Comparison Groups – Random assignment and random sampling

•  Qualitative Methods: Collecting narrative data – Focus groups, interviews, observations

•  Surveys: Gathering data by administered surveys one time or over several periods of time

– Polls, questionnaires, personal interviews

•  Case Studies: Recording actual experiences of an organization or community that allow for identification of variables and processes

• Cost – Benefit Analysis: compares the costs and the benefits

Sources of Information 

  • Media
  • Statistics
  • Public Opinion Polls
  • Specialized Analyses
  • Think Tanks
  • Academic institutions
  • Knowledge from within the community ü? Governments
  • Associations
  • Others?

Analyzing Policy Research Studies

The following eleven points should be used to evaluate a policy research study.

1. What question was addressed by the study? 

2. What is the policy context for the study? 

3. What is the research context for the study? 

4. What is the researchers’ implicit causal model?

5. What was the basic design and analytic approach of the study?

6. Who/what was sampled?

7. What was the source of the data?

8. What measures were used by the study?

9. What were the main findings of the study?

10. What are your validity concerns with the study? How do they affect your interpretation of its findings?

11. What are the implications of the study's findings for policy-makers, managers, clients, and researchers?

Suggestions for your research

•  Focus

– What part of the research and analysis is the most important?

•  Problems should dictate the research methods, not the other way around

– Is your research method the best for the given problem?

•  Say it with numbers

– Does your evidence yield powerful insights?

•  Be simple

– Is your research simple enough to be understood?

•  Be transparent

– Are all of your methods and sources clear?

•  Check your facts!

Fact Checking

•  Analyze your sources

•  Never rely on a single source

•  Think critically through the given information

•  Understand how the facts/information were derived

•  Consider the limitations of a study or existing research •  Don’t assume anything

Making decisions with your data

•  Things to consider with decision making:

• Are your options in the correct frame?

• Have you considered decision makers’ and constituents’ values?

• Have you used logical reasoning?

• Are you using all of the relevant evidence and data?

Now it’s time to write!

Please see the Policy Writing training or check out the 10 Ideas writing guide to start writing your policy ideas!

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Click here for the literature review template to make sure you are selecting strong peer-review articles. 



 After you have completed the Research training, please complete this survey.