Emergency Managers Policy Debate the Need for Background Checks for Volunteers. - Essay Prowess

Emergency Managers Policy Debate the Need for Background Checks for Volunteers.


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Topic Selection

Select a contemporary policy issue related to emergency management and that meets the following criteria:

  • There are clear alternatives to the current policy or approach.
  • There are sufficient data available to provide the target audience (i.e., decision-makers at any level of government) with information to make a decision on the policy option.

What is not an appropriate topic?

  • An historical analysis is not an appropriate topic. A policy paper must focus on a current policy issue.
  • Comparative or case studies are not a good fit for a policy options paper. 
  • An analysis of how something works is inappropriate for a policy options paper.
  • Opinions not supported with peer-reviewed journals, books, and/or quality government websites and those of reputable think tanks are not appropriate.

Paper Format

Some variation may occur depending on the topic of the paper and the research methods being used. The length of the policy paper should be 15-20 pages, not including references and appendices.  Since the paper must be well documented and make use of quality data, all papers should have appendices.

Executive Summary

At the beginning of the paper, explain who the target audience is (i.e., the decision-maker for your policy proposal) and the main points that the decision-maker should know. It may be best to write this section last because it will serve as a summary of the entire paper.

At a minimum, the summary should include the following:

  1. A statement of current policy, i.e., a description of existing approaches or policies for addressing the issue
  2. Reasons for initiating changes
  3. Policy options considered, including at least 3 alternative approaches for addressing the issue selected
  4. Pros and cons of each option, including their strengths and limitations, using data and other information, as well as costs and benefits, either quantitatively or qualitatively presented.
  5. Recommended course of action and your reasoning for selecting that course of action

Body of Paper

The main part of the paper is dedicated to establishing the background and discussing the reasoning behind the policy recommendation made. Include all of the basics from the executive summary, but fully elaborate on each point that the paper makes.  The main body of the paper should include.


  • Statement of purpose–Why should the decision-maker consider a policy change at this time? This should be a short section introducing the problem/issue you with to research. The purpose of this section is to give the reader an immediate indication of the issue you are addressing and why it is significant. Be very explicit about the subject matter and define the terms of your analysis.
  • Review of the Current Policy–What is currently done, why, what is the public’s perception of the policy? Assess how well is it working or not working? This section should provide some background to the topic so readers immediately understand the context. It should also mention the key stakeholders involved with the issue and why the topic selected is important to public administration
  • Statement on the Necessity for Change–What circumstances make a new approach advisable or necessary?


Discuss the alternatives to the current policy option by enumerating and explaining each policy option in turn.

  • Pros/cons, strengths/weaknesses, and the costs/benefits of each policy option are discussed next. Identify the political, economic, and social implications for each option and compare and contrast each to the others as well as to the current policy. This is the most important part of the paper.


  • Clearly identify which option you recommend and which options you think should be   discounted.
  • Clearly lay out the argument for why the selected option is better than each of the others.


  • Write a detailed recommendation for specific steps on how and when to implement the recommended policy option. Consider the various stakeholders likely for and against the option and their likely strengths and weaknesses in successfully achieving their goals.

References and Endnotes

Use APA guidelines and provide an annotated bibliography.  


The following items should be included as appendices to your policy paper.

  1. Any material you find appropriate to make the case for the recommended policy option.
  2. Tables, charts, maps, etc., not incorporated into the body of the paper.


Viable Alternatives

Policy papers present several serious policy alternatives, which usually involves three options. One serious alternative may be to maintain the status quo, despite its clear disadvantages, because it is easy in the real world to avoid change. The alternatives presented must not be straw men that are so outlandish that they only serve to make the recommended policy look good. It is fine to delve more deeply into the preferred alternative than in the other options reviewed, but the other options must be given a fair presentation and analysis.

Costs and Benefits of Proposed Options

It is not expected that you provide a sophisticated quantitative analysis for this undergraduate course. However, you should review all possible outcomes clearly and thoroughly. Discuss the  feasibility of implementation as thoroughly as possible, including economic or strategic implications as well as political feasibility. The analysis of likely effects must not be completely one-sided. There are always some benefits and some costs to any policy proposal.

Clear Criteria

Present clear criteria for evaluating the problem at hand and the policy alternatives considered. This involves prioritizing among a variety of possible values. Trade-offs are the heart of the process–if solutions were easy or obvious, the problem would not be around for you to analyze. Determining clear criteria at the outset aids the development of a cost-benefit analysis. Are you trying to increase efficiency, equity, justice, liberty, sustainability or some other value?

Clear predictions

What are the likely results of the various alternatives? Be specific and reasonably detailed. What level of certainty can one have about them? And what middle-run indicators would demonstrate success?

Examples of policy option papers can be found at these sites:

  • Rand Corporation (http://www.rand.org/); look under “Reports and
  • Bookstore”/”Research Briefs”)
  • The Urban Institute (http://www.urban.org/); look under “Find Research.”
  • The Brookings Institution (http://www.brookings.org/)
  • The American Enterprise Institute (http://www.aei.org/); look under “Short
  • Publications”)
  • CATO Institute (http://www.cato.org/); look under “Publications”/“Policy
  • Studies”)
  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office (http://www.gao.gov/); look under
  • “Reports and Testimonies”)