An information note describes a particular issue and its background, and is usually for a government official or other political leaders. These decision makers have to make difficult choices on different topics every day and do not have time to research each one in depth. An informational note helps draw someone's attention to a single topic and fills in key details they need to know. It also proposes solutions and recommends improvements. Knowing how to write a briefing note is a useful skill for students, businessmen, politicians, and community activists. A persuasive briefing note is concise, well-organized, and covers the most important and relevant data, as well as solutions.
Part 1 of 4: Outline and Build Your Briefing Note
Step 1. Determine the scope of the document
The scope includes both the depth and breadth of the document. How detailed will it be? How many different topics will you cover? This will vary based on the amount of information you can find, as well as all the information you will need to include to support your claims.
It is important to determine the scope of the document because it will allow the reader to know exactly what information is covered and what is not
Step 2. Know your audience
Before you start writing your briefing note, it is important to consider who will read it. That will determine the choices you will make throughout the document. Before you start, think about the following questions and try to find the answers if you don't know them:
- Who will read this document? Government officials? Business executives? Journalists? Some mixed group of those people?
- How much does the public already know about the subject? Do they even know anything? What does the audience need to know?
- What authority does the public have on the subject? What changes can they make?
Step 3. Plan the important points
Before you start writing your briefing note, you should outline the important points you want to develop, either mentally or in outline.
Since a briefing note is typically only 1-2 pages long, you will need to summarize it. Political leaders are very busy, and your briefing will not be the only issue. There is no possibility that you put unnecessary information or very extensive explanations. Decide your important points in advance in order to create a concise briefing note
Step 4. Consider using a template
While the format of a briefing note is not very complex, you can save time by downloading one of the many free online templates for making briefing notes in Microsoft Word.
A template can help you organize your ideas and produce a briefing note more quickly
Step 5. Make name, date and subject lines
If you do not use a template, you will have to start preparing your document by making name, date and subject lines.
- In the name line you will indicate to whom the information note is addressed.
- In the date line you will indicate the date you sent the document.
- In the subject line you should describe in a few words the main topic of the information note, for example, "The prevalence of harassment in Latin America." This will allow the reader to know what the document will cover, without even flipping through it.
Step 6. Consider a summary section
Some informational notes include a summary section at the beginning of the document, which summarizes the entire document into a few highlights. Decide if you would like to do this, and if so, leave room for that section.
- For a busy reader, the abstract lets you know in advance what the important points are, allowing you to skim through the rest of the document.
- A well-crafted briefing note is often concise enough that this section is unnecessary. However, for matters that require immediate action, this can be a way to highlight the urgency of the document by clearly indicating the due date in the abstract.
- The abstract should have no more than three to four highlights.
Part 2 of 4: Describe the problem
Step 1. Make a beginning that summarizes the problem
The next part of the document should describe the issue or problem in detail. Start with a short opening (usually with the subheading "Subject" or "Purpose") that describes in one or two sentences the main subject on which the document is focused or the reason why you are sending it.
For example, you could write something like “Violent incidents related to bullying are increasing in schools in Latin America. Current disciplinary policies may not be adequate to deal with the problem. "
Step 2. Summarize the background or main facts
The next section (whose subtitle should be “Considerations” or “Background”) should provide some detailed information on the situation of the problem or issue, focusing on the recent development or current state of the situation.
- This section should include the information necessary for the reader to make a decision on the matter. You should exclude information that is not necessary for that purpose, no matter how interesting it is.
- If you haven't already, do some research before writing this section. You will need to make the information in this section as accurate, specific, and up-to-date as possible.
- When necessary, translate the information for your audience to make this section clear and simple. Avoid jargon, technical language, or information that is not of central interest to the public.
- Use the data and statistics as appropriate; however, explain things in words that the audience can understand quickly and easily.
Step 3. Exclude your opinions
Your point of view about the situation or what to do about it should not appear in this section. Keep it as strictly objective.
However, you may choose to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various current or proposed measures, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each
Part 3 of 4: Offer Conclusions and Recommendations
Step 1. Make it relevant
The information note should end with sections whose subtitles are "Conclusions", "Recommendations" or "Next steps". This closing should make it clear why the reader should consider the matter as important.
- Try to link the subject directly to the reader's self-interest in order to make the document more persuasive.
- For example, you could say something like, “Incidents of bullying are causing parents to consider private schools. Such incidents are linked to poor grades and decreased graduation rates, making schools appear less effective in the eyes of the community. Thus, they reduce the opportunity for Latin America to complement financing with private and federal funds”.
Step 2. Come up with a solution
Many informational notes will provide a proposed solution to the problem that was described. In this way, they will link the problem to a sought-after change in policy in order to improve the situation.
- Some briefing notes will summarize the proposed solutions in a section whose subtitle may be “Recommendations”; however, some authors prefer "Next Steps" as they believe it has a softer tone and is less aggressive or presumptuous. Remember that the reader will be the one who makes the final decision on the problem and not you.
- This section does not have to be “balanced” like the background or considerations section was. It can be a space for you to express your opinion as to what should be done.
- However, it should be noted that you do not have to endorse a particular solution. You can also simply lay out some options with their advantages and disadvantages and simply urge the reader to consider them and take action of some kind to address the issue. Do not necessarily specify which measure would be the most appropriate.
Step 3. Use information to support your argument
Your proposals in this final section should flow logically from the information that was presented in the previous sections. Use the information you presented to show why your proposed solution is a good one.
Make sure any solution you come up with is clear and directly related to the topic as you outline it. For example, imagine that in the previous section you highlighted the lack of programs to prevent bullying. In that case it will make sense for you to suggest such a program and perhaps indicate its effectiveness in other schools. If prevention programs haven't emerged yet, such a solution might seem like it came out of nowhere
Part 4 of 4: Edit the document
Step 1. Reduce it
An informational note should only be about two pages long. If the note has more pages, your first step in the editing process should be to find parts and reduce them.
- Find information that is not related to the topic or that is less important, and remove it, especially if it is not related to the solutions you offer.
- Similarly, make sure that important pieces of information that are necessary to make your argument clear and convincing are not missing. You may have to change one piece of information for another.
- Try to put yourself in the shoes of a politician or bureaucrat when editing. Think about the amount of information these people receive every day. Don't contribute to the problem. Be part of the solution by providing the information you need to make a decision - no more and no less.
Step 2. Don't include technical language
When editing, pay attention to jargon or technical language that could make your document less accessible. Even if you were trying to avoid it when writing the document, it is possible that some challenging language will emerge in the document.
- Especially if you are an expert in the subject you write, it is easy to forget at least momentarily that the language that is everyday for you could be difficult for others to understand.
- Also note that it is not always immediately obvious why something is important to people who are not yet familiar with a topic. Political leaders cannot normally be experts on all the issues in which they have to make decisions.
Step 3. Make sure the structure is logical
Make sure that the important information you have included flows logically from the problem as you summarize it. Make sure that any solution you propose addresses those important considerations as well.
Step 4. Review carefully
After paying attention to the length and fluency of the document, give it a more careful review to make sure there are no errors.
The reader may not take a document with grammatical, spelling, and style errors too seriously. You may harm yourself more rather than benefit by submitting such a document as it could discredit your point of view
- Review informational notes written by prominent leaders and expert teachers to learn of their persuasive methods.
- Remember that while your note could be addressed to a certain person, other people could also read it: employees, colleagues and even the media. This is a good reason to keep your writing as accessible as possible, even if the intended reader has some knowledge of the topic.