For your research paper, you will write 10 to 15 pages. The purpose of the paper is to provide the reader with a synopsis of a problem or critical issue in US crime, what we know about the pre-exiting policies that are causing or contributing to one of the problems or issues, and what alternative policy options are recommended.
To begin, you will need to locate a problem or critical issue related to US crime control. Next you should select a policy-oriented research topic that you know or discover is causing the problem or issue. Possible research topics can include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Crime prevention policy targeting delinquency, gun violence, or a particular type of offense or
• Police policy, for example policies to effectively manage high-risk communities, community-police
relations, or Stop, Question and Frisk.
• Drug policy or ‘The War on Drugs.’
• Policies generated to prevent, intervene, and suppress gangs.
• Policies related to the issue of mentally ill inmates and offenders.
• Sentencing policy and/or prosecution policy.
• Juvenile justice policy.
• Corrections policy (for example, correctional interventions).
• Reentry policy.
Minimum Requirements of the Research Paper/Policy Report:
Your policy report must be between 10- to 15-pages (approximately 2,500 words and 3,500 words). Your policy report must also be double-spaced with 1.0-inch margins and using a 12- point Times New Roman font. I use turnitin to review for plagiarism, and your report should not have a similarity score at or higher than 25% (the reference page and direct quotes are not included in the similarity score that is generated by turnitin).
OVERVIEW OF A POLICY REPORT
The research paper that you write for this class will be in the form of a research-based policy report. As an overview, a policy report is a document that outlines the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative or course of action in a current policy debate. It is commonly produced in response to a request directly from a decision-maker or within an organization that intends to advocate for the position detailed in the brief. Depending on the role of the writer or organization producing the document, the brief may only provide a targeted discussion of the current alternatives without arguing for a particular one (i.e. those who adopt the role of ‘objective’ researcher). On the other end of the scale, i.e. advocates, the brief may focus directly on providing an argument for the adoption of a particular alternative. Nevertheless for any case, as any policy debate is a market place of competing ideas, the purpose of the policy brief is to convince the target audience of the urgency of the current problem and the need to adopt the preferred alternative or course of action outlined and therefore, serve as an impetus for action.
The key to success is targeting the particular audience for your message. The most common audience for a policy report is a decision-maker or policymaker, but it is also not unusual to use the document to support broader advocacy initiatives targeting a wide but knowledgeable audience (e.g. journalists, diplomats, administrators, researchers). In constructing a policy report that can effectively serve its intended purpose, it is common for it to be the following:
• Focused—all aspects of the research-based policy report (from the message to the layout) need to strategically focused on achieving the intended goal of convincing the target audience. For example, the argument provided must build on what they do know about the problem, provide insight about what they don’t know about the problem and be presented in language that reflects their values, i.e. using ideas, evidence and language that will convince them.
• Professional, not just academic—The common audience for a policy brief is not interested in the research and analysis procedures conducted to produce the evidence, but are very interested to know what scholars know about the problem and potential solutions based on the best available evidence.
• Evidence-based—The research policy report is a communication tool produced by policy analysts and therefore all potential audiences not only expect a rational argument but will only be convinced by argumentation supported by evidence that the problem exists and the consequences of adopting particular alternatives.
• Limited—to provide an adequately comprehensive but targeted argument within a limited space, the focus of the brief needs to be limited to a particular problem or area of a problem.
• Succinct—The type of audiences targeted commonly do not have the time or inclination to read an in-depth 30-page argument on a policy problem. Therefore, it is common that policy briefs do not exceed 10 to 15 pages in length.
• Understandable—This not only refers to using clear and simple language (i.e. not the jargon and concepts of an academic discipline) but also to providing a well-explained and easy to follow argument targeting a wide but knowledgeable audience.
• Accessible—the writer of the research policy report should facilitate the ease of use of the document by the target audience and therefore, should subdivide the text using clear descriptive titles to guide the reader.
• Practical and feasible—the research policy report is an action-oriented tool targeting policy practitioners. As such the it must provide arguments based on what is actually happening in practice with a particular policy and propose recommendations that seem realistic to the target audience.
THE STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS OF THE RESEARCH PAPER/POLICY REPORT
Research-based 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 report are as follows:
• Title of the Policy Report
• Executive Summary
• Context and Importance of the Problem
• Pre-Existing Policies, Policy Options, and Research
• Policy Recommendations
• Reference Page
The following is a description of each of the elements required in your research policy report (and note that these should be subheadings in your paper):
• 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. The executive summary should be written after you have completed the rest of your research policy report.
• Context and Importance of the Problem—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 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 that you did in the previous section.
• 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 research 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 paper. You should have at least 10, but could have more. Also, you must have in-text cites throughout your paper. 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, 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).
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