Briefing Paper Overview and Instructions
During this course we only scratch the surface of many important energy topics. In many of the course lessons, we had you provide a short analysis of the issues by summarizing the main points of a controversial issue. In this briefing paper you will spend time delving into one topic related to energy and provide context and background on the multiple sides of the real-life issue. After this assignment you will be ready to talk about the issue in-depth with your family, friends, co-workers and even that crazy uncle!
Objective: Learn how to synthesize information and make decisions on complex topics.
For this assignment, you will research an energy related topic. You will select a hypothetical audience and write a short briefing paper that describes the topic, presents the pros and cons and informs your audience on a particular topic, all with supporting documentation.
What is a Briefing Paper? A briefing paper is a short, neutral, informational summary of what is known about a particular issue or problem. Briefs are widely used in government, nonprofits, and industry to inform decision makers and guide action. It is a concise summary of research findings, written for an informed, although not necessarily an expert, audience. Briefing papers quickly update the reader on an issue’s current status and get them up-to-speed on the background. The briefing paper distills or synthesizes a large amount of complex detail, so the reader can easily understand the heart of the issue, its background, the stakeholders and any recommendations for action. It may have tables and graphs, and it has a list of references, so the reader knows something about the sources on which it is based, and where to go for more information.
We have provided a set list of topics for your briefing paper. Please choose one of the following topics and follow the guidelines on page 3 on the aspects to include in your paper.
Potential topic list:
• Regulations or policy mandating renewable energy
• Public sector investment in renewable energy
• Renewable energy in the developing world
• Fracking and natural gas extraction
• Nuclear energy
• Corn ethanol
• Cellulosic ethanol
• Solar energy
• Wind energy
• Waste-to-energy technology
Audience for Briefing Paper
You will choose the audience for this briefing paper. The audience may be the CEO of a company, members of the legislature, a club or organization, or just a group of citizens. It can be anyone who needs to know more about a particular issue to make an informed decision. In most cases, your audience will have multiple stakeholders and need to consider many sides of the issue before making a decision. Therefore, your goal is to present factual information on both sides of the issue so that your audience will be able to make an informed decision. Your effort will help them make the decision – possibly bridging a gap between the opposing sides – or at least summarizing both sides of the argument.
Note: You must choose your specific audience and topic and list them on your cover page
Note on the proper tone of this paper
This is NOT a paper meant to persuade. You are informing your audience and presenting the issues and facts as best you can, and perhaps making a suggestion for a course of action, but the majority of the paper should be spent being neutral in tone and simply presenting facts.
You need to keep a neutral tone throughout the paper, and not be seen as someone “advocating” for one side or the other.
Required Structural Elements and Organization
Target Word Count = 2000
You must use the following headers in your briefing paper.
Cover Page (10 pts)
• Title, your name, your major, date, audience addressed in paper
• Topic chosen (from potential topic list)
• 1-3 sentence overview or summary of your topic
Executive Summary (10 pts)
• This section should be written after your paper is complete. It is a one or two paragraph summary of the discussion outlining the key points on the topic. Include topic addressed, brief description of the issue, and potential recommendations or course of action.
• The executive summary should be on its own page, and be placed right after the cover page
Discussion of the Issue (50 pts) Include ALL of the following segments (and use the headers provided, for full credit in this section).
• Introduction and Background: What is the issue? Provide a brief introduction to the issue, the multiple sides that you will be summarizing, and why it is important. Provide a short background for the reader to understand the most recent developments. Decide what points the audience needs to know to understand the current state of the issue. Include specific incidents and facts that may have occurred that may affect the current state of the issue. (This is a section where you will likely need citations.)
• The issue: Describe what is known about the issue including the multiple sides to the issue and the facts known. Use supporting facts from reputable sources to provide a balanced description of the issue. Include enough detail so that the decision maker can fully understand each side. (This is a section where you will likely need citations.)
• Pros and cons: What are the pros and cons of each side? Be neutral in tone here. You are not persuading, you are informing. What are some potential good and bad aspects of the issue? Summarize the views of a few key organizations or other key stakeholder’s positions on the topic.
• Recommendations: Suggest or recommend a course of action based on your research into the multiple sides of this issue. Provide rationale and/or justification to support this recommendation. Remember to keep your tone neutral – just include the facts and a logical conclusion based on those facts.
Bibliography (10 pts)
• The final section of your paper must include the references used in your paper.
• Use at least three sources for your work. You can use more. Use any citation style you wish (see page 5 for guidance on citations). But you MUST use a specific style. If you simply provide us with a web link to your source YOU WILL LOSE POINTS.
• You are encouraged to use peer reviewed journal articles, books, and government sources for the main sources for your paper. Avoid the use of popular press articles such as magazines and newspapers. You can use information from “advocate groups” or non-reliable sources, but only to describe their position on the issue. Don’t use these sources to provide key facts about your issue. (We reserve the right to deduct points if non-reliable sources are used incorrectly.)
• You can use web-based sources, as long as they are from a reputable source, such as a government entity. Make certain that you use a document or report, and not just a general page from their website. Remember to cite properly, don’t just provide a web URL.
Writing Quality (20 pts)
We reserve 20 points based on the quality of your writing.
Quality of writing includes:
• Proper spelling, sentence structure and punctuation.
• Use of required headings.
• Paper flows well between sections and is easy to follow and read.
• Layout makes sense and is professional and clear.
Use the Center for Writing for help if you need help proofreading/editing.
You can use MLA, APA, Chicago or other citation styles that you choose. No matter which you choose, make sure to stay consistent and follow the guidelines for that style.
Use the following link to read guidelines for the different styles.
For help with writing or citations
Ask a UMN librarian a question about citations or anything else: https://www.lib.umn.edu/#askalibrarian.
The University of Minnesota Center for Writing provides information to all students about a wide range of writing assistance resources—including the online UMN Center for Writing where you can send your writing in for tutor review and feedback (Need to allow 1-2 weeks for this). Refer to: http://www.writing.umn.edu
If you live in or near the Twin Cities, consider using the services of the student writing support offices, which offer free 45 minute tutoring sessions, available by appointment or on a walk-in basis. Call 612-625-1893 or check the student writing support page from the website above for a list of these offices and their current hours of operation. If you live outside the Twin Cities metro area and need writing assistance, you may also contact the UMN Center for Writing or check with local schools, libraries, or other community resources to find out if similar tutorial help is available to you.
Papers should be submitted directly to the Turnitin software on the Moodle course site. Turnitin is a third party system that checks for plagiarism. Students have the ability to resubmit the paper prior to the due date to make certain that all sources have proper citations. Make sure that you have not plagiarized! See below for more information on plagiarism and proper citations. Papers that have more than 20% similarity, even though properly cited, may lose points as we are looking for original ideas and independent work.
Paraphrasing properly can be a real challenge. If done incorrectly, it can be viewed as plagiarism. If you need help determining when to quote and when to paraphrase, see this resource from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. YOU are responsible to make sure you paraphrase and cite properly! For helpful information see: http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QuotingSources.html.
To help you identify what is and is not plagiarism, you can go through this tutorial from Indiana University: http://writing.umn.edu/sws/quickhelp/sources.html or https://www.indiana.edu/~istd/.
This additional resource provides background on the rationale for the US culture of citation/academic property used in academic institutions: http://wpacouncil.org/positions/WPAplagiarism.pdf
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