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Communicating Policy Seminars

The Writing Center offers seminars in Communicating Policy exclusively for currently enrolled LBJ School of Public Affairs graduate students. Communicating Policy seminars address different types of public affairs writing, including policy memos, op-eds, and grants. 


Fall 2015 Seminar Schedule

Policy Memos

Friday, August 28: 12:15-1:30 pm — SRH 3.122

Policy memos can function as advising documents, strategy proposals, and research summaries, depending on the needs of the assignment.   In this seminar you’ll learn how to approach this crucial policy writing format, including common organizational strategies, formatting requirements, and writing style choices. You’ll examine samples memos, evaluate their effectiveness, and practice devising strategies for different memo assignments.

Research Ethics/Working with Sources

Friday, September 18: 12:15-1:30 pm and again 2:00-3:15 pm— SRH 3.314/3.355

As a student and a policy professional, you’ll need to know how to research and work with a large variety of sources – from print to digital, primary and secondary, both quantitative and qualitative, and sometimes on a really tight deadline.  Come learn strategies you can use from initial research throughout the writing process to track, incorporate, and cite sources accurately and responsibly.

Professional Report Basics (for May Graduates)

Friday, October 2: 12:15-1:30 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

If you plan to graduate in May and are writing a Professional Report, this seminar is required, whether you are registered for PR hours through LBJ or through another department as part of a dual degree. You’ll meet other PR writers and learn basic information for successfully completing the project, using the PR template, and meeting required deadlines. 

Clear, Concise, and Active Writing

Friday, October 9: 12:15-1:30 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

Effective policy writing is clear, concise, active, and free of unnecessary jargon.  In this seminar, we’ll discuss the importance of these style choices in policy analysis and practice revising unclear, passive, and wordy writing.  You’ll come away with tools you’ll use in practically all of your academic and professional writing.

Research Tools and Literature Reviews

Friday, October 30: 12:15-1:30 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

A literature review situates your research inside an existing scholarly community by placing your ideas alongside previously published work and showcasing the need for your unique input. Conducting the review can help you further refine your research questions. In this seminar you’ll dive deeper into scholarly and professional research tools and learn the context and format for writing a successful literature review.

PR and PRP Beyond the Basics: Telling Compelling Stories with Data

Friday, November 13: 12:15-1:30 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

You’ve done the research and analyzed the results. But do your charts and figures really tell the story you want them to tell? Is there a more compelling visual way to present your findings? In this seminar you’ll evaluate different visual representations of data and discuss the theory and practice of incorporating visual elements into your policy reports.


Spring 2016 Seminar Schedule 

The following seminars are tentatively scheduled for the Spring 2016 semester.  Check back in early January to see the finalized schedule.

Policy Briefs

Friday, January 22 12:15-1:30 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

Don’t let the name fool you; a policy brief is meant to inform and even persuade its reader and is not necessarily brief. Come learn the differences between briefs and memos and the key components of successful policy briefs, including formatting, visual style, tone, and strategy.

Copyediting Academic and Professional Documents

Friday, January 29: 12:15-1:45 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

In this seminar, you’ll practice the art and science of copyediting professional texts for formatting, style conventions, and grammar. You’ll learn to approach documents written by individuals as well as groups and gain a few tips for revising your own work more effectively. If you plan to attend, please email the writing center by 5 pm, Thursday January 28th, to receive the editing samples we’ll discuss. Be sure to bring your laptop or request a loaner from the writing center.

Op-Ed Writing

Friday, February 5: 12:15-1:45 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

Op-eds can be a vital piece of the policy-making puzzle, garnering public support around complex policy concerns – but translating complicated issues into a style and tone appropriate for popular media outlets can be tricky. Come learn to connect your policy issue to specific public concerns and then convey those connections to a general audience, all in about 750 words!

Professional Report Basics (for August and December Graduates)

Friday, February 26: 12:15-1:45 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

If you plan to graduate in summer or fall and are writing a Professional Report, this seminar is required, whether you are registered for PR hours through LBJ or through another department as part of a dual degree. You’ll meet other PR writers and learn basic information for successfully completing the project, using the PR template, and meeting required deadlines. 

Effective Management Documents

Friday, March 4: 12:15-1:45 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

Rules, regulations, and guidelines meant to implement policy and direct actions across large organizations really must be crystal clear to be effective. Yet too often they read more like unhelpful “instructional haiku”: a decision will be made/ by the decision maker/ in a timely fashion.  In this seminar, you’ll practice translating instructional haiku and planning clear management documents for typical public management scenarios.


Friday, March 25: 12:15-1:45 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

After its title, the abstract is often the first encounter a reader will have with your professional report or research paper. A clear and comprehensive abstract will not only help the reader, writing it will help you refine the structure of your project before it is complete.  This seminar will help you write a strong abstract for your research project or report and will be especially helpful for PR writers.

Writing Samples and Writing Portfolios 

Friday, April 8: 12:15-1:45 pm — SRH 3.314/3.355

Whether you use Google Drive, a professional website, or a file folder, you should be compiling your best work into a portfolio. You’ll need writing samples for fellowship and job applications and content for blogs and articles – all reasons to keep your writing handy. You’ll learn what to keep, how to keep it, what makes a good writing sample, and how to avoid “self-plagiarism” when reusing your own work professionally.