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Briefing Notes

Briefing Notes

A Briefing Note is a specific form of concise, informative writing, a short paper which represents in a quickly digestible manner the key points at stake in a broader, more complex situation; the purpose being to invest decision-makers with essential knowledge on that issue so they make take relevant action. Hence Briefing Notes are pragmatic documents intended for use in real-world situations, where important information needs to be gleaned quickly and efficiently; where decision makers need to be briefed on the particulars of important situations. Accordingly, Briefing Notes are common in the public sector, in large governmental organisations which deal in deep volumes of information the specifics of which will not always be known by senior staff. As an example, briefings (in the written and oral form) are the primary means of communication at the higher levels of government. For similar reasons, Briefing Notes are common, also, in the private sector, in large business operations where comparable organisational structures obtain. Depending on the precise context of use, then, Briefing Notes have varying overall objectives. They may be purely informative, providing objective details of the topic at hand; or they may counsel a certain course of action, offering a critical perspective on that topic; they may, likewise, advance other forms of recommendation. It depends on the exact type and purpose of the Note. However, what is common generally across the board, is that briefings are concerned with the various issues surrounding a topic, the contentions and obstacles at play, why and how they shape the broader situation.

Briefing Notes are also quite common in academia, within those disciplines where large-scale organisational issues are current, such as International Relation, Politics, Economics, Business and so forth – in effect, any field where operational complexity is a given. In consequence, Briefing Notes are often set as assignments. As such, Briefing Notes are research projects, where the student is charged with gathering the relevant data on a topic, arranging it in order of priority, then distilling that information to its essentials. Recall that the first priority is to inform. Efficient transmission of information is necessity. This is why Briefing Notes have a standardised format, being divided, by convention, into headings as follows: Title, Purpose, Topic or Subject, Background, Current Status, Key Considerations, Recommendations. Each section will comprise a paragraph or so, with bulleted points where needed. Note that the document opens with an explanation of its own purpose. The reader may not be conversant with the issue in discussion; but, after having read your Briefing Note, they should be. Briefing Notes allow no scope for supernumerary content. As a rule, to be time efficient, they are only a few pages long; the writing within is pared down and highly economical. Your priority is conveying information. In order to ensure only vital information is included, one needs to adopt a precision approach to the issue. Begin with extensive notes, filter out anything not strictly to the point, compose the Briefing Note then repeat the process; keep doing this until you cannot excise another word without compromising the document; this is when you are finished.

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