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Writing Briefing Memos

A briefing memo is a tool for informing decision-making by providing background, breaking down a complex problem, and identifying the implications of new information. This distance education module is intended to help public health students and practicing professionals to craft effective briefing memos by:

- Clarifying the aim
- Understanding the context
- Presenting a logical sequence of information
- Using clear visual cues
- Streamlining text

Module Components 
The module offers a brief lecture, a briefing memo template, and a checklist of elements of an effective memo.

A.Video Lecture: Writing Briefing Memos
This 15 min lecture presents common problems that lead to ineffective memos and offers solutions for more effective writing.
Play lecture
B.Structuring a memo to summarize research findings
A template for writing a briefing memo that summarizes research findings.


C.Briefing Memo Checklist
A checklist for critiquing your own or another author’s briefing memo.
Links to a few excellent resources on writing and presenting data.

Download this information as a PDF

Resources on Writing

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)
See especially:

  1. Revision in Business Writing
  2. Revising for Conciseness and Clarity
  3. Audience Analysis
  4. Eliminating Wordiness

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation

In particular, the essays by Tony Proscio about jargon and effective communication:

  1. In Other Words: A Plea for Plain Speaking in Foundations
  2. Bad Words for Good: How Foundations Garble Their Message and Lose Their Audience
  3. When Words Fail: How the Public Interest Becomes Neither Public Nor Interesting

Resources on Communication with Data:

Anything by Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge

See especially:

  1. The library section of the website
  2. Designing Effective Tables and Graphs
  3. Examples of poorly-designed graphs with comments on the problems and suggested solutions

The Gallery of Data Visualization: The Best and Worst of Statistical Graphics

Making Data Meaningful by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Using Graphics to Report Evaluation Results, by Ed Minter and Mary Michaud, Program Development & Evaluation, University of Wisconsin-Extension, 2003.

*Links active as of December 2012



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