General Guide + Sample Issue Brief with Endnotes and Notations

The Issue Brief Format

Purpose:  To make audience aware of problem and provide practical steps for solution. Framing the issue to find stasis/achieve clash is fundamental to this effort.

  • Attention
    • Find a way to engage audience
    • provide relevance to audience’s lives
      • perhaps begin with anecdote, example, news story, current/recent event
    • Statement of need/Identify problem or issue
      • provide overview of problem
      • provide evidence that the problem is REAL
      • provide variety of supports
      • corroborate claims that might foment skepticism
    • Significance of need
      • Who is harmed? How much?
      • What is the larger societal cost?
    • Satisfy need/Identify steps that will alleviate problem
      • draw on solid claims and evidence used in stating the problem
      • offer examples that illustrate viability of suggested efforts
      • explain how steps will be effective
    • Visualization/Solvency – Prove that steps will actually solve the problem; look to future
      • explain what happens if steps are taken
        • use examples to prove solution(s) will work


  • explain what happens if steps are not taken
    • use examples to prove solution(s) will work


  • do both
  • Disadvantages – show/prove that the proposed plan won’t make matters worse or negatively affect others as consistent with the values, principles that initiated and root the brief’s exigence and goals
  • Action
    • provide a path for audience participation in the subject

Sample Issue Brief with notes

Obama, identity, and the problem of speaking on race

Alcoff tells us that we should be wary of speaking for others. We should embrace the voices of those who are of the experience we seek to help and understand. That said, why are some groups unable to speak for themselves and their experiences? Even the President of the United States has been constrained in speaking about race. He’s done it, but with restraint, and often with the result of criticism. On the other hand, the Black community, who saw a great hope for their concerns, has found frustration in his limitations.

Take this account as an example:

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick, the first black governor of his state and an Obama friend, is one of the few with whom the president has commiserated. But even with him, Obama is cautious, leaving it to Patrick to bring up the issue during their conversations.

“He is very determined to be the president of everybody,” Patrick said, “and very conscious about the efforts of some people to put him in a box.”

That challenge has made matters more difficult at times for this president, some friends say. A key white ally, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, said race has been “confining” for Obama, forcing him to use milder language than he sometimes would like and to be self-conscious about how to engage certain subjects such as poverty and inequality, even the coarseness of the political environment.


The questions Obama faced were unlike any a president had to face before. His identity, so strongly socially constructed, complicated his approach to leadership:

How do you lead a nation in difficult times while embracing your unique place in history? How do you balance the duties of the presidency with the enormous expectations of people who look like you and feel pride in your achievement but may have unrealistic hopes and needs you can’t meet?


This raises an interesting question: When does identity interfere with voice? Why does this happen? And isn’t this the very point Alcoff makes about the privilege of choosing to speak or not? Obama almost doesn’t have a choice to speak. But others do.  Take Hillary Clinton, for example:

At an unusually emotional event Tuesday night in Columbia, South Carolina, Clinton sat beside five black mothers whose children were killed by gun violence and urged white voters to “practice humility” and “do a better job listening.”

“That’s too many deaths. Too many young lives cut short,” she said, prompting a few “amens” from the audience gathered in a Baptist church. “Something is very wrong.”

Clinton’s frank language underscores how the conversation around race has shifted after seven years of the first black president, a period some critics say marked little progress on criminal justice abuses and black poverty. But it also captures the relative freedom Clinton, a wealthy white woman from a Chicago suburb, has to aggressively discuss race.

“If President Obama said the same thing she said, he would be attacked,” Jackson said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The white experience is accepted more in race discussion than the black perspective, that’s the fact of it.”


As he nears the end of his presidency, he’s finding ways to engage the conversation:

Obama is hardly uncomprehending of these concerns. One can hear it in his rhetoric on race these days, which has become much more lyrical, personal, explicit. “Amazing Grace,” he sang in Charleston. “Racism, we are not cured of,” he told Marc Maron, “and it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘n—–’ in public,” using the full word. This summer,Obama visited a prison, the first president to do so, and commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. Last year, he started the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which zeros in on programs within federal agencies that can help young men of color. He is now trying, with the improbable cooperation of congressional Republicans, to pass a bill on criminal-justice reform.


The tightrope Obama has had to walk on race is indicative of the ways social location — even when you’re President of the United States — can constrain and others’ voices are needed to speak.

In 1992, Mary Fisher spoke at the Republican National Convention. She was a wealthy, Republican woman, her family well-connected to the party, and she was HIV positive. Why was she the right person to speak on the AIDS epidemic? Why not a gay man? Why not a drug user?


Think Tanks, Issue Briefs, RCL Examples

Top 30 Think Tanks Worldwide –
Think Tank Issue Brief Examples

Sample Issue Brief: The Center for American Progress, Windpower

Sample Issue Brief: The Brookings Institue, Assessing the long-run benefits of transfers to low-income families

Sample Issue Brief: Institute for Higher Education Policy, The Role and Relevance of Rankings in Higher Education Policy


Deliberation; Self and Peer Evaluations; Post-Deliberation Reports; One additional event

Your performances during the deliberation will be assessed based on the concepts we talked about in class. See this rubric for guidance – Speech, Facilitation, and Note Taking Rubric

Please use this form for your self and peer evaluations:

Peer Evaluation – Deliberation

Report or Reflection

Here are the directions for the post-deliberation team report:

As a mini-group (overview, each approach, and summary), write a 750-1000 word post-deliberation report directed toward policymakers who are interested in understanding the public perspective on the issue.  Teams 1, 2, and 3 write on each of their specific approaches. After briefly presenting the issue at hand (overview team, perhaps a reworking of your introductory work, with your report audience in mind?) , your report should highlight the emergent themes and oft-cited values in the deliberation (in total or your approach), perhaps quoting directly from key moments of discussion or questionnaires as evidence. Your report should also note points of consensus and discuss tensions or unresolved issues. The report should make policy recommendations based on the consensus of the participants, although it may also recommend further research for some parts of the issue if only a tentative recommendation can be reached. Reports should be compiled into one document, professionally written, visually appealing and formatted well (subtitles could be useful), and should include a Works Cited page or pages.

Take a look at the attached samples.  Think about the organization.  You’ll want an executive summary of the deliberation and the questionnaire responses as well as a more specific summary of the discussion that took place during each approach.  There are some categories that might be useful to think about as you reflect on the responses given by participants.  How would you organize the comments?  What themes emerge that would allow for organizational strategies?  What values seem to underpin the participants’ statements?

Questionnaire team, you’re responsible for an executive summary that .  Approach teams, your job is to highlight the themes and values that emerged during your segment.

As a team decide who the point person(s) should be to pull this all together.


  • On February ____ 2018, a forum on the topic of_________________ was held in State College Pennsylvania. There is urgency to this topic because…..

Executive Summary

  • Articulation of overall themes in the deliberation, broad concerns, points of consensus and tensions

Approach 1, 2, 3

  • Title, explanation of approach and its broad considerations.
  • Nature of discussion
  • Themes and values that emerged
  • Any participant examples that help create an understanding of how themes and values were manifested/derived.

Survey Data

Recommendations for Action or Further Research


Post-Deliberation Individual Report 

Write a 700-1000 word response analyzing the relative deliberativeness of the entire event your team helped run (not just your sub-team’s content).  This should:

  • make and develop specific claims about deliberativeness
  • support claims via reference to both reading assignments and to specific behaviors you observed.
  • be well organized

Please note that this is not a summary of the deliberation, nor is it merely a reflection on your reaction to the event. Rather, this report should provide careful analysis. Be sure to offer substantial and objective evaluation of the areas where your deliberation was successful and areas where it might have lacked.

Excellent analyses will demonstrate a rich understanding of not only how public deliberation functions, but also its potential for tackling issues of common concern.  More information is available on the rubric. Submit one per person to the relevant dropbox on Canvas, as a doc, docx, pdf, or rtf file.  (Post-Deliberation Reflection Rubric)



Peer Evaluations and Post-Deliberation Reports due by March 16th on Canvas.

Attend one additional deliberation event

  • Failure to participate in another event will result in a 10% deduction in final grade for this assignment.

National Issues Forum – Racial and Ethnic Tensions

Student Post-Deliberation Report

Post Deliberation Report 2

Deliberation Attendance form

Deliberation Packet Checklist

As you’re putting your packets together, be sure they contain the following:

Introduction/Issue Overview

  • This section defines the context for the deliberation. In the introduction, aim for defining a desirable outcome (ie affordable healthcare for everyone, elimination of gun deaths).
  • Define the conditions as they are and make a case for wanting those conditions to change.
  • Articulate the challenges/obstacles to achieving the desired outcome.
  • Provide visuals that enhance easy understanding of complex ideas/numbers.


  • Define the problem relative to your approach, highlighting shortcomings in the system as it currently exists in this way.
  • Describe your approach, highlighting the key players who would be responsible for implementation.
  • Identify and explain the direct benefits of your approach; who are the people who would see positive outcomes?
  • Identify and explain the direct costs and concerns of your approach; are there people who would be negatively affected?
  • Provide visuals that enhance easy understanding of complex ideas/numbers.
  • Provide an easy to read chart of actions, benefits, and tradeoffs.

Summary Team

  • Receive information/content from all the approaches.
  • Provide a brief summary of the problem/issue and compile their information into a “menu” or summary that could be referred to easily.
  • Create survey for deliberation participants.
  • Devise promotional strategies; save emails, links, documents for submission.

Have a plan for making 20 copies of your deliberation packets and surveys for your deliberation event.


The Process of Topic Selection and Approach Consideration

  1. Review issues of interest
    • Is it a Type 2 problem?
  2. Work through your understanding of the issue.  Determine where stasis is lost. 
  3. Determine what values are at odds? What values cause the loss of stasis?
  4. What is the big question guiding the deliberation? It should begin with “What do we do…?” or “How can we…?”
  5. Develop approaches, lenses with which to address the issue.

Deliberation Teams

8am – Section 001

Team 1 – Thursday, February 22, 2018 – 5-7pm – Fraser Street Commons



Team 2 – Saturday, February 24, 2018 – 5-7pm – Fraser Street Commons


9:05am – Section 002

Team 1 – Wednesday, February 21, 2018 – 4-6pm – Webster’s Bookstore


Team 2 – Saturday, February 24, 2018 – 3-5pm – Fraser Street Commons