THE STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS OF THE CAPSTONE RESEARCH POLICY REPORT

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THE STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS OF THE CAPSTONE RESEARCH POLICY REPORT

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Policy reports directly reflect the different roles that the policy analyst commonly plays, i.e. from

researcher to advocate. The type of report that you are writing is one from the more action-oriented,

advocacy end of the continuum (but that is nevertheless based purely on evidence and not your

opinion). Although there is much variation even at this end of the scale, the most common elements of

the policy brief are as follows:

• Title of the Policy Report

• Executive Summary

• Context and Importance of the Problem (also called the ‘Introduction’)

• Pre-Existing Policies, Policy Options, and Research

• Conclusion

• Policy Recommendations

• Reference Page

The following is a description of each of the elements required in your policy report (and note that

these should be subheadings in your policy report):

• Title of the Policy Report—The title aims to catch the attention of the reader and compel

him/her to read on and so needs to be descriptive, punchy, and relevant.

• Executive Summary—The executive summary aims to convince the reader further that the

brief is worth in-depth investigation. It is especially important for an audience that is short of

time to clearly see the relevance and importance of the report in reading the summary. As

such, a 1 to 2 paragraph executive summary commonly includes: A description of the problem

addressed; a statement on why the current approach/policy option needs to be changed; and

your recommendations for action.

• Context and importance of the problem (i.e. Introduction)—The purpose of this

element of the report is to convince the target audience that a current and urgent problem

exists which requires them to take action. The context and importance of the problem is both

the introductory and first building block of the brief. As such, it usually includes the following: A

 

 

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clear statement of the problem or issue in focus; a short overview of the root causes of the

problem; and a clear statement of the policy implications of the problem which clearly

establishes the current importance and policy relevance of the issue. It is worth noting that the

length of the problem description may vary considerably from report to report depending on

the stage on the policy process in focus, e.g. there may be a need to have a much more

extensive problem description for policy at the evaluation stage than for one at the option

choosing stage.

• Pre-Existing Policies, Policy Options, and Research—The aim of this element is to

detail shortcomings of the current approach or options being implemented and therefore,

illustrate both the need for change and focus of where change needs to occur. It also should

detail the evidence about what will likely work better (or not suffer from the shortcomings). In

doing so, the critique of policy options usually includes the following: A short overview of the

policy option(s) in focus and the evidence illustrating why and how the current approach is

failing and why and how another option is not failing (and is hopefully ‘working’). It is also

important for the sake of credibility to recognize all opinions in the debate of the issue.

• Conclusion—you need to summarize briefly what the readers should take away from your

research review.

• Policy recommendations—The aim of the policy recommendations element is to provide a

detailed and convincing proposal of how the failings of the current policy approach need to

change. As such this is achieved by including: A breakdown of the specific practical steps or

measures that need to be implemented. You may also include a closing paragraph

reemphasizing the importance of action. The recommendations should follow the conclusion.

• Reference Page—Since your policy report is research-driven and evidence-based, you should

include a reference page that includes all the journal articles, book chapters, books, and

reputable reports that you used to inform your policy report. You should have at least 8, but

likely more. Also, you must have in-text cites throughout your policy brief report. Remember,

this is not original research by you, thus you should have a copious amount of in-text cites. By

way of example, here is a decent illustration of in-text citing:

The swelling of the US system over the last 40 years is due, almost entirely, to an increased rate of incarceration for people of color, mainly for drug-related offenses (Alexander, 2010; Currie,

 

 

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2013; Sentencing Project, 2010; Tonry, 2011). For young men of color with little education, the prison has become a normal social experience, statistically speaking (Western, 2006). Mass incarceration appears to be with us for years to come as well: while the US prison population recently experienced a slight downtick, estimates suggest that the US carceral system will be larger in 2018 than today (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2014). This means that, for the foreseeable future, a prison term will serve as a common rite of passage for poor young men of color (Comfort, 2012), an experience that forever dims their life prospects and curtails those of their neighbors, partners, brothers, sisters and children, perhaps for generations to come (Clear, 2007; Wakefield and Wildeman, 2011).

 

 

RUBRICS

Content Knowledge

Rubric

Level of Achievement Evaluators assign a one (0) to any measure that does not meet Beginning (cell one) level performance

Beginning/ Unsatisfactory

1

Developing

2

Competent/ Satisfactory

3

Advanced

4 Subject Knowledge

 

Student does not have grasp of basic information.

Student is uncomfortable with information and lacks awareness of how various issues affect the CJS. Prerequisite learning is evident although inaccurate or incomplete.

Student displays solid knowledge of important issues in criminology and criminal justice and possesses limited awareness of how these issues affect the CJS. Student is able to explain relevant issues, as well as, assess issues and derive conclusions.

Knowledge base displays scope, thoroughness, and quality. Student displays extensive knowledge of important issues in criminology and criminal justice and how these issues affect the CJS. Student clearly articulates relevant issues, critically examines the issues, and derives logical conclusions.

Examination of Literature

Student fails to cite important or relevant scholarship. Student does not address gaps in the literature.

Student possesses limited understanding of relevant literature.

Student possesses general understanding of relevant literature and draws upon knowledge from multiple disciplines.

Student effectively synthesizes and critiques literature from multiple disciplines and addresses the gaps therein. Student discusses policy implications.

 

 

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Student’s Position

 

Specific position (perspective, thesis/hypothesis) is stated, but is simplistic and obvious.

Specific position (perspective, thesis/hypothesis) acknowledges different sides of an issue.

Specific position takes into account the complexities of an issue. Others’ points of view are acknowledged within position (perspective, thesis/hypothesis).

Depth of content reflects thorough understanding of topic; main points well supported with timely, relevant and sufficient support; provided precise explanation of key concepts.

 

Critical Thinking Rubric

Level of Achievement Evaluators assign a one (0) to any measure that does not meet Beginning (cell one) level performance

Beginning/ Unsatisfactory

1

Developing

2

Competent/ Satisfactory

3

Advanced

4 Explanation of Issues

Issue/problem to be considered critically is stated without clarification or description.

Issue/problem to be considered critically is stated, but description leaves some terms undefined, ambiguities unexplored, and/or backgrounds unknown.

Issue/problem to be considered critically is stated, described, and clarified so that understanding is not seriously impeded by omissions.

Issue/problem to be considered critically is stated clearly and described systematically, delivering all relevant information necessary for full understanding. Sources and

Evidence Selecting and using information to investigate a point of view or conclusion

Information is taken from source(s) without any interpretation or evaluation.

Information is taken from source(s) with some interpretation/evaluat ion, but not enough to develop a coherent analysis.

Information is taken from source(s) with enough interpretation/evaluatio n to develop a coherent analysis or synthesis.

Information is taken from source(s) with enough interpretation/evalua tion to develop a widespread analysis or synthesis.

 

 

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Influence of Context and Assumptions Considers where appropriate the disciplinary, cultural, social, economic, technological, ethical, political, or personal context

Shows an emerging awareness of present assumptions (sometimes labels assertions as assumptions). Demonstrates minimal attention to context.

Questions some assumptions. Identifies several relevant contexts when presenting a position. May be more aware of others’ assumptions than one’s own (or vice versa).

Identifies own and others’ assumptions and several relevant contexts when presenting a position.

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