Information management for small & medium sized enterprises
What is a Briefing Sheet
A briefing sheet is a very concise summary of a subject or document, intended to provide easily accessible information for professionals and interested leypeople.
Their intention is to fill a gap between lightweight journalistic reporting, and long publications that can take many hours to read and absorb. They help the reader understand the general scope and content of a subject, or document, and to act as an aide memoire. They are not intended as working documents. Individuals are advised to consult source documents for definitive information.
Types of Briefing Sheet
There are two main types of briefing sheet
- best practice reviews
- precis of publications
The Best Practice type of briefing sheets provide the reader with a concise, easy to read overview of a subject.
The Precis type briefing sheets provide the reader with an overview of a document, such as a key government policy document or guidance.
Guidance for on Writing A Briefing Sheet
Content Not a word wasted
Make your summary add to the document - make it simpler - try to enhance the document’s logical structure - even when it doesn’t have one.
Add Diagrams and Graphics- Produce a diagram to express the logical structure if you think it appropriate. Add graphics, or flow diagrams if that would help the reader understand.
Use the headings in your briefing sheet to summarise the document - the aim should be for the reader to be able to get an immediate grasp of the document just by reading the headings of the briefing sheet. Ensure the headings mean something.
Lists - Always arrange lists with a separate line or bullet for each item - rather than compressed into a paragraph - surveys show they are easier to take in when laid out in the former way.
Sentence Structure - Consider arranging the sentence structure on lists so that you have the subject, or main recommendation at the start of the sentence, you can then put it in bold print - which the reader can then scan - eg:
place the sentence subject first - this makes it easier for the reader to scan the briefing sheet. (but don’t go over the top with bold text).
Where the copyright of a document you are summarising belongs to someone else - you can
· ask them for their permission to make the summary - which can be no bad thing, as it potentially generates good will, or alternatively
· completely re-write the document to ensure that there is nothing that is directly lifted from the source document.
If ICE or Thomas Telford holds the copyright, then you may lift text liberally.
Suggested Structure for the Briefing Sheet
Start with an introduction which states what the briefing sheet is about and other reference details..
This briefing sheet is a summary of blah blah a report by the blah published 1998 and available from blah blah - price blah.
Add a highly compressed summary of the key points in the document
Super Summary Blah blah blah
· blah blah · blah blah · blah blah blah
Add the main summary of the document
Use your judgement as to what you summarise as opposed to stating what the document includes.
In many instances it will be enough to list them – perhaps giving a flavour of what it contains.