Value: 15% of course grade
Due Date: October 15 (outline); October 18 (final)
Choose an issue that falls into one of our Vision 20/20 categories: environment, justice, Aboriginal, economic, health, social and cultural, or education. (Note that foreign policy, which is a federal government responsibility, has been replaced by education, which is a provincial responsibility). The issue should be one that has personal relevance for you, either because it has a direct impact on your life (e.g., education funding, a personal health issue) or because it is related to an existing interest of yours (perhaps as a result of other academic or community interests). The issue should be local (that is, restricted to the Victoria area or, if Victoria is not your home, to your home town or region), although it may reflect provincial or even federal government policy. If you wish to write about an issue that is not related to one of our Vision 20/20 policy themes, check with me.
Prepare a two-page informational briefing note for an appropriate government official that describes the issue you've chosen. Make sure you have narrowed your focus to the local level (that is, write a BN for the Colwood municipal council about the lack of bicycle routes in Colwood rather than to the B.C. government about the lack of cycling infrastructure in general). Make sure to read How to Write A Briefing Note to learn about the structure and characteristics of a good briefing note.
Tips on Choosing a Topic
Brainstorm for issues you are familiar with or interested in. Consider issues you've studied or encountered in your life. If you're stuck, ask yourself: What issue would I like to bring to the attention of local government officials? Here are some possibilities:
- the problem of vehicle idling at drive-through restaurants
- the lack of low-cost housing or other housing issue
- a government land use policy concerning a specific location or activity
- the provision of specific health care or the cost of a specific treatment
- your municipality's policy on the use of pesticides, recycling, or other environmental concerns
- a local arts-funding issue
As you work on refining your topic, keep the following points in mind:
- The closer the issue is to your own interests, the better.
- Be realistic about your workload, the time available, and your knowledge. Limit the scope of your topic. Ask me for advice if you feel your topic is too big.
- Your goal is not to accumulate information but to distill it. As you examine the issue, limit yourself to ONLY the details necessary for someone to understand the issue and its current status.
- Do not make a recommendation. For this assignment, you will be providing an informational briefing only.
October 4: Be prepared to write a brief memo describing the issue you've chosen and the main sources you'll be using for your information.
October 11: Have a complete outline of your briefing note (in a Word file) ready for class. You will have the chance to discuss any problems you're having with the assignment and to exchange outlines with another student for peer editing. Don't miss the workshop; if you do (without a legitimate excuse), you will lose 30% of your grade for the assignment. The outline is worth one-third of the marks for this assignment.
October 15: Have a complete draft of your briefing note ready to submit to Peer Scholar for peer review. We will do the first peer editing session with Peer Scholar in class so that everyone is clear about how to use it. Be sure you have access to Peer Scholar by October 15. If you miss the peer editing workshop without a legitimate excuse, you will lose 30% of your grade for the assignment.
October 18: Bring your briefing note to class (in electronic or print form) for a final editing session. Send your revised briefing note to me as an attachment by 11:59 p.m. Name your file: YourlastnameBN1.doc (e.g., doyleBN1.doc).
Briefing Note Checklist
When you have prepared your briefing note, go through the following criteria to make sure you've met all the expectations of the assignment.
- Is the purpose of the briefing note clear?
- Is the language simple, economical, and clear?
- Is everything there that needs to be there?
- Is anything there that isn't essential to the purpose?
- Is the briefing note easy to read, understand, and remember?
- Do the sections lead logically from one to another?
- Is the briefing note designed so that it is inviting to the reader?
- Is there a good balance between white space and text?
- Has the briefing note been edited for errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics?