Dr. Monica Bulger led a discussion of the elements of a strong brief. She distributed a handout describing the "IRAC" system, used in Berkeley's law courses. IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) is a framework used to develop tight, well-prepared, concise arguments. We can use this same system to help us translate detailed and lengthy reports into a more condensed format.
Considerations in preparing the brief:
- The audience comes first (as always!).
- How can you profit from the brief or use it to further your career?
- Could it serve as a writing sample?
- The overall goal is to produce a 1-4 page document that communicates complex ideas clearly and simply.
- Make this a document that you can be proud of.Your Executive Summary may be a good starting point.
Activity 1: Groups spent a few minutes building an outline for their briefs using IRAC.
Applying IRAC to the Bren Group Project:
Issue: What are you addressing? This should be a one-sentence description of your topic.
Example: There is no established way to predict or reduce the environmental impact of shoes.
Rule: What are some of the assumptions made about your topic? What are some of the limitations or challenges in addressing the question?
Analysis: How did you approach the problem? What evidence have you gathered? It is important to explain the basics of your methods and provide support for your conclusions.
Conclusion: What are the results of your study? What are the implications of your findings?
Example: The Footprint Group Project produced a model that can predict and reduce the environmental impact of shoes during the design phase.
You will want to market your project as much as possible in the brief. A brief is a much more attractive than a full report for people interested in learning about your project. The brief is very likely the only thing that will actually be read. If it is provides a strong and compelling message, it will entice readers to explore your report.
Activity 2: Groups spent a few minutes looking at past group project briefs and the entire group then discussed examples of strong content and formatting.
Advice for brief formatting generated in the session:
- The main message should be visually obvious.
- You might consider putting the problem statement and your conclusions in bold.
- Maximize headings by making them count: for example, instead of "Results" use a more descriptive title.
- If you have a study site, include a map showing the area.
- If you are studying a species, show a picture of it.
- Create strong graphs or figures to represent your data.
- Think about the brief as a movie preview; you want to include the most exciting moments to get people to the theater to see the full movie. This is your opportunity to compel people to want to know more.