Writing high-level summaries of your research
What is an evidence note?
An evidence note communicates policy relevant research findings and other evidence-based information and conclusions to policy professionals in clear, nonacademic language. They may also provide a series of recommendations, based on research findings, to address a particular policy issue.
Why you should write evidence notes?
Writing an evidence note aimed at policy stakeholders is a useful way to communicate research findings and raise awareness of your - and others’ - research. They will have the most impact when they synthesise the field and address a specific and current policy need. Evidence notes are not a guarantee of policy impact but are a useful resource to have available for when policy engagement opportunities arise.
- Keep it short
- Use accessible language
- Focus on key research findings and their implications
- Target the summary to the intended audience
- Deliver clear conclusions
- Recommendations should be actionable, rather than vague aspirations
Questions to ask yourself before you start
Why does the research matter for public policy? Think about whether there are particular areas or public policy issues for which your research findings are significant. Is there a current policy debate to which they are relevant? What are the implications of your findings? What solution(s) are you offering to policy challenges? Does your analysis acknowledge policy constraints? Does your analysis show ways to improve current policymaking?
What audience am I trying to reach? You should have a particular audience in mind and try to target it as much as possible.
Audiences may include:
- local government officials and representatives
- central government officials
- Parliamentarians and Parliamentary staff
- All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs)
- think tanks, charities and civil society groups
- trade unions
- business or industry representatives
What information do I want to get across? Accessible evidence notes should focus on research findings, conclusions and offer ways forward for policy, not try to describe how the research was undertaken (except briefly and at the end of the document).
Things to remember
- Tailor evidence briefs to specific policy need as much as possible.
- Include a good cover email. Policy professionals receive a high-volume of things to read so in the first paragraph of your cover email state clearly that you are writing to them because you know of their interest in the subject and how your research and/or expertise impacts on this policy area.
- Include a clear ask on what you would like them to do as a result of reading your evidence note. For example, ask for a meeting to discuss the topic further or adapt their policy messaging to take account of the research or evidence.
- Further engagement. Evidence notes should be considered as providing a starting point for further engagement, not an end point. The ‘impact’ of an accessible evidence note will ultimately depend on it being used by the right people in the right place at the right time.
How to write an accessible evidence note
- Keep it simple. You are not writing for academic peers but for an audience with variable expertise. Use plain language and avoid complicated and lengthy sentences.
- Keep it short. Policy professionals have limited time. It should be kept as short as possible – a single page is ideal, but in all cases the most relevant information should be on the first page.
- Title. This should communicate the key message of your research findings, as well as capture a policy professional's imagination.
- Focus on key research findings. Outline the policy issue and summarise your conclusions and how your research findings address it. Explain the significance of the findings. You should provide a short analysis of your evidence and include a very brief description of your research at the end. If you are including any conclusions for policy or policy recommendations, ensure these are prominent
- Key points box
- Introduction: statement of the problem or question your research addresses
- Key research findings and conclusions
- Short analysis, including a description of relevant research insights (use subheadings as appropriate)
- Brief summary of research methods
Providing links for interested readers to access more information (such as the full research paper, or project website) is useful.
These should be kept to a minimum and included in endnotes (not footnotes).
Evidence notes can be disseminated in numerous ways: via social media, websites, meetings and mailings to a targeted audience. Reaching a smaller number of people who are more likely to read at least some of the briefing is more valuable than a larger number of people who may never read it.
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