Vocal Europe publishes four different types of papers:
c) Policy papers
d) Policy briefs
Guidelines for each type are explained below. In general, Vocal Europe aims to cover political, social, and economic issues concerning six geopolitical areas:
1) European Union
2) Western Balkans
When writing a paper for Vocal Europe, make sure that your piece covers a topic, issue, or matter related to one of these areas, and it is not too technical. We aim to reach a vast audience, from professionals to students to policy-makers.
All writing that is submitted must be typed and carefully proofread (for spelling and other errors) and meet the following formal standards:
• Font: Times New Roman
• Size: 12-point
• Footnotes size: 10-point
• Margins: leave 2.5 cm at the top and bottom and on both sides of the main text
• Line spacing: 1.5 throughout
• Page numbers: use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) for numbering all pages consecutively
• Paragraphs: do not use indent to separate your paragraphs. Instead, separate them with a blank line. Aim to have paragraphs of 3/4 sentences/lines. Avoid long, complicated sentences.
1.1 Purpose and features
An op-ed is a piece of writing which expresses the personal opinion of the author on a certain topic or matter. It represents the strong, informed, and focused opinion of the writer on an issue of relevance to a targeted audience. Here are some guidelines to follow when writing one:
• Length: not more than 3 pages (1,500 words).
• Use a catchy, descriptive and short title. We recommend using one or two catchy words and then explaining with other few words the nature of the issue after a colon (“:”).
• Aim to making one single point clearly and persuasively. Put your main point on top of the op-ed.
• Try to give personality to your op-ed, to embrace your personal voice and convey your own views and character. You can make examples related to your personal experience, apart from only sharing your personal opinion. Your words will ring truer and your readers will care more about what you are saying. Therefore, embrace a clearly defined point of view and convey the strong, unique voice of the writer.
• Tell your readers they should care. At the end of every few paragraphs, try to answer the questions: “So what? What is the point?” for your readers. Appeals to self-interest usually are more effective than abstract points.
• Consider acknowledging the other side and arguments contrasting and opposite to yours. After presenting the opposing arguments, you can make your stronger by presenting a counter-argument.
• Always make use of powerful evidence to support your articles. Use figures, examples, quotes, etc.
• Use short sentences and paragraphs. Cut long paragraphs into two or more shorter ones.
• Avoid unnecessary jargon. If technical words and details are not essential to your claims and arguments, do not use them. Simple language does not mean simple thinking: it means you are being considerate of your readers and guiding them by the hand through the matter or situation you are discussing.
• Try to use the active voice as much as possible, rather than the passive voice, as it is easier to read and follow.
1.2 Structure of an op-ed
Aim to dividing the op-ed into three main parts:
a) The first lines are crucial. Try to grab the reader’s attention with a strong claim, a surprising fact, a metaphor, a counter-intuitive observation that pushes the readers into reading more. The opening also lays the foundation for your argument.
b) After you define your main point in a paragraph, provide a background, technical or historical overview of the problem.
c) In the second part, you should outline your opinion by providing several arguments backed up by evidence. You can also include the ideas of others, provided that you always refer to your sources (see 1.3)
1.3 Sources and referencing
Vocal Europe is very serious about plagiarism. Whenever you refer to a quote or to the idea(s) of other authors, always provide a reference to your source. Within an op-ed, we recommend embedding the link to your sources within relevant words related to the source content. Please provide us with a reference list at the end of your paper.
1.4 Examples of op-eds
The Threats From Within: Road To The 2019 Eu Elections by Elisa Telesca
Brexit Threatens To Turn Eu’s Divide Into An Unbridgeable Chasm by Ebubekir Isik
Land-Swap Deal: Ideal Solution Or Pandora’s Box? by Sergio Calivà
2.1 Purpose and features
A commentary is a comment on a new policy, situation, matter or issue. Commentaries draw attention to or present criticism on previously published documents such as legislation, opinions, recommendations, articles or reports, or on ideas and concepts which have been widely discussed in the recent times. The findings are often used as a call to action or to highlight a few points of wider relevance to the field. For example, they can offer concise, policy-oriented insights into topical issues in European affairs, such as CEPS Commentaries.
The aim of the commentary is to provide a broad overview of the issue, document, or idea and of the debates revolving around it. Commentaries can also provide the opinion of the author; however, the main difference with op-eds is that providing a strong point of view is not the main aim of the paper.
• The length of commentaries can vary. Try not to exceed 10 pages.
• Do not include original data, nor recommendations. Instead of recommendations, you can include questions and possible scenarios concerning your chosen topic as a call to action or to reflection.
• Commentaries are usually about an issue, document or idea which is very recent. They are intended to react in a timely fashion to the chosen matter.
• Include and discuss the debate and statements of relevant actors for your chosen topic.
2.2 Structure of a commentary
Commentaries do not have a defined structure, as this can vary. Examples of sections you can include in your commentary are the following:
a) Historical or technical background
b) Current debates and related issues
c) Advantages and disadvantages of the current approach related to your topic or issue
d) Questions put forward regarding your topic or issue
2.3 Sources and referencing
Vocal Europe is very serious about plagiarism. Whenever you refer to a quote or to the idea(s) of other authors, always provide a reference to your source. Within policy commentaries, we recommend using footnotes and providing the direct link to the source. Please provide us with a reference list at the end of your paper.
2.4 Examples of commentaries
European army: A Problematic Dream? by Elisa Telesca and Sergio Calivà
Brexit: A Promising Agreement For Northern Ireland But Many Challenges Ahead by Bob Groome
3. POLICY PAPER
3.1 Purpose and features
If you would like to write a policy paper for Vocal Europe, you are invited to send us an abstract presenting your ideas for the paper. Then we will be able to examine it and tell you if we are interested in the analysis you want to undertake.
The aim of a policy paper is to present a rationale for choosing a policy option in a policy debate; to convince the audience of the relevance/urgency of the issue and the need to adopt the proposed policy/course of action. The paper should thus serve as an impetus for change. It is directed at the attention of decision-makers.
• Build on what the readers might already know, to provide insight into what they probably do not know. The scope of the paper should be restricted to a particular problem or policy.
• Provide evidence to support your arguments! Related to 1) the existence of the problem, and 2) what the consequences are of the adoption of certain alternatives.
• Arguments should be based on what is actually happening within a certain policy area, and propose recommendations that seem realistic to the target audience.
• The language should be clear, and the argument should be well-explained. Titles should be clear and descriptive.
• Aim for a length of around 6-15 pages.
3.2 Structure of a policy paper
A policy paper is usually divided into three parts, excluding the title and table of contents at the very beginning. Sources should not be listed at the end but referred to as footnotes throughout the paper (see section 3.3).
a) Background (content and importance of the issue)
• Description of the problem addressed, how it occurred
• Provide a clear statement of the issue that establishes its current importance and policy relevance
• Provide a short overview of the root causes of the problem
• Outline only the essential facts that a decision-maker needs to know to understand the context of the problem
• Devote not more than 1/3 of your paper to this part, preferably less. The most important parts are the ones following.
b) State of play (critique of the policy option(s))
• Outline and discuss what are the current debates among the key political actors regarding the problem, what are the discussions at the moment
• It is important to recognize all opinions in the debate of the issue
• Explain why the current approach/policy option is inadequate
• Detail the shortcomings of the current approach or options being implemented
c) Future prospects (policy recommendations)
• Make guesses, projections about how the issue will evolve
• Provide around 3-6 recommendations (remember: better less recommendations but supported by good argumentation)
• The aim is to provide a detailed and convincing proposal of how the failings of the current policy approach need to be addressed
• A closing paragraph should re-emphasize the importance of the course of action to be taken
3.3 Sources and referencing
Vocal Europe is very serious about plagiarism. Whenever you refer to a quote or to the idea(s) of other authors, always provide a reference to your source. Within policy papers, we recommend using footnotes and providing the direct link to the source. Please provide us with a reference list at the end of your paper.
3.4 Examples of policy papers
The power of Article 7: Protection of European values or punishment tool? An analysis of the Polish case by Elisa Telesca
The EU and the Western Balkans 6: a difficult wedding by Sergio Calivà
Conflict in Cyprus: religion, ethnicity and natural gas pipelines by Xavier Palacios
The revival of EU-Turkey relations: Erdoğan’s double strategy of rapprochement by Ebubekir Isik and Elisa Telesca
4. POLICY BRIEF
4.1 Purpose and features
A policy brief is similar to a policy paper. It differs in that it does not include recommendations and it is merely an analysis of the topic or issue at hand. It is recommended to use original data such as interviews and statistics. A policy brief combines the characteristics of an op-ed and a policy paper, as you present your point of view concerning your chosen issue, but at the same time this is backed with more evidence.
A policy brief is usually shorter than a policy paper. Aim for a maximum of 3/4 pages.
4.2 Structure of a policy brief
The structure of a policy brief can vary. It can be similar to that of a policy paper concerning background and state of play sections. If research on the field in conducted, the findings and results can be included in a separate section.
4.3 Sources and referencing
Vocal Europe is very serious about plagiarism. Whenever you refer to a quote or to the idea(s) of other authors, always provide a reference to your source. Within policy briefs, we recommend using footnotes and providing the direct link to the source. Please provide us with a reference list at the end of your paper.
4.4 Examples of policy briefs
The Belgian Jews: To Stay Or Not To Stay? By Ravija Harjai