Terms of use

Policies are typically promulgated through official written documents. Policy documents often come with the endorsement or signature of the executive powers within an organization to legitimize the policy and demonstrate that it is considered in force. Such documents often have standard formats that are particular to the organization issuing the policy. While such formats differ in form, policy documents usually contain certain standard components including:

  • A purpose statement, outlining why the organization is issuing the policy, and whatits desired effect or outcome of the policy should be.
  • An applicability and scope statement, describing who the policy affects and whichactions are impacted by the policy. The applicability and scope may expresslyexclude certain people, organizations, or actions from the policy requirements.Applicability and scope is used to focus the policy on only the desired targets, andavoid unintended consequences where possible.
  • An effective date which indicates when the policy comes into force. Retroactivepolicies are rare, but can be found.
  • A responsibilities section, indicating which parties and organizations areresponsible for carrying out individual policy statements. Many policies may requirethe establishment of some ongoing function or action. For example, a purchasingpolicy might specify that a purchasing office be created to process purchaserequests, and that this office would be responsible for ongoing actions.

Responsibilities often include identification of any relevant oversight and/orgovernance structures.

  • Responsibilities often include identification of any relevant oversight and/orgovernance structures.

Some policies may contain additional sections, including:

  • Background, indicating any reasons, history, and intent that led to the creation ofthe policy, which may be listed as motivating factors. This information is often quitevaluable when policies must be evaluated or used in ambiguous situations, just asthe intent of a law can be useful to a court when deciding a case that involves thatlaw.
  • Definitions, providing clear and unambiguous definitions for terms and conceptsfound in the policy document.

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