Pls 433 Public Policy Analysis

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PLS 433 Public Policy Analysis

Dr. Crawford

Office: Administration Building 430

Office Phone: 280-2569

The focus of this course is the analysis of government policies. We will examine public policy from three main perspectives: (1) the processes by which policies are made, (2) methods of evaluating policy options and evaluating public policies, and (3) comparative analysis of policies. The analyses of policy processes enable us to discuss the logic of political action, constraints on policy effectiveness, and the challenges of social justice. Our discussion of methods of analysis will include normative analysis (what should happen), and empirical analysis (what does happen). We conclude with a focus on comparative analysis of specific policy areas. Our study of each policy area will emphasize the differences in policy responses and the effects of policies. Throughout the course, each student will work on a policy analysis project for a community stakeholder.


         Understand and apply major theories and concepts related to public policy formation.

         Understand and apply major methods of policy analysis

         Conduct a stakeholder analysis

         Present a policy proposal

         Complete a policy proposal for a policy problem  


The reading requirements, class participation requirements, final exam, and short memos develop and test student skills in understanding and applying theories and concepts related to public policy formation and methods of policy analysis. The stakeholder interview paper develops and tests student ability to conduct a stakeholder analysis. The policy presentation and policy paper develop and test student ability to present and complete a policy proposal.

Reading Requirements

Reading requirements include assigned readings from the textbooks and supplemental readings. There are five textbooks for the course. They should all be available at the Creighton Bookstore.

Adolino, Jessica R., and Charles H. Blake. 2001. Comparing Public Policies: Issues and Choices in Six Industrialized Countries. CQ Press.

Clemons, Randall S., and Mark K. McBeth. 2001. Public Policy Praxis: Theory and Pragmatism: A Case Approach. Prentice Hall.

Fischer, Frank. 1995. Evaluating Public Policy, Nelson-Hall Publishers.

Lindblom, Charles E. and Edward J. Woodhouse. 1993. The Policy-Making Process,

Third Edition. Prentice Hall.

Stone, Deborah. 2002. Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Each student is expected to regularly read newspapers and news magazines and to spend some time once week to look through journals for articles related to their policy issue. Several newspapers, newsmagazines and journals are available in the Spillane Room. More journals and news periodicals can be found at the Library. Some policy oriented journals to consider include: Public Policy, Policy Analysis, Policy Studies Journal, The Public Interest, Regulation, Journal of Political Economy, and Law and Policy Quarterly. Other standard political science journals such as the American Political Science Review, the Journal of American Politics, or the Political Science Quarterly should also have relevant articles. Please feel free to explore other political science and policy journals. The RAL electronic journals provide many of these journals and many other policy resources.

Response Memos

A short (approximately 1 page) memo responding to the readings is due by 9:00 AM before most class sessions. This does not need to be in memo format. The memo briefly explains one of the key points from the readings (the key point could be related to more than one reading) and then applies that key point to the policy problem that the student is working on OR identifies an important debate related to the key point. The discussion of a key point from the reading is worth 4 points, the application or debate issue is worth 6 points.

Grading Criteria

Key Point: 4 points (identifies an argument, concept, or theory that is central to the readings; explains the concept or idea well—best memos identify ideas that link to more than one source); 3 points (identifies a key idea but does not explain it well or explains a minor point); 2 points (attempted but does not understand the idea); 0 points (missing).

Application: 6 points (application is correct and explained well); 5 points (application correct but not explained well); 4 points (application poor or explained incorrectly); 0 points (missing).

Debate Issue: 6 points (raises an interesting debate question and explains the tie to the key point well); 5 points (raises an interesting debate question but does not explain the connection to the key point well); 4 points (simplistic question or poor tie to the key point); 0 points (missing).

Exam Requirement

The only exam is a short final exam worth 50 points. The response memos and the writing assignments test most of the material.

Policy Analysis Project

Each student will select a policy problem to follow during the semester. Students will focus their writing assignments on this problem and will be reading news articles and scholarly material on this problem throughout the semester. Students registered for HAP credit are strongly encouraged to select a health-related problem. The problem needs to be a current problem that receives some news coverage for which there is at least one major stakeholder who could be interviewed.

Background Briefing

The background briefing paper introduces the policy problem and summarizes scholarly material that attempts to explain the problem and scholarly material on possible solutions to the problem. This material then becomes part of the final paper.

Stakeholder Interview and Analysis

Each student will interview a stakeholder related to their policy problem and write a short paper that analyzes the stakeholders interests, their definition of the problem, and the stakeholder’s understanding of possible solutions to the problem. This information is helpful for the presentation and final paper.

Policy Proposal

Each student completes a 15-20 page policy analysis for a policy problem. The report will be written to a target stakeholder. It should include the following five components: 1) it introduces a specific policy issue or problem and discusses its relevance to the stakeholder/organization, 2) it reviews scholarly efforts to understand the problem, 3) it uses policy analysis techniques and scholarly material to evaluate different policies designed to address the problem; 4) it proposes a policy solution, and 5) it discusses policy analysis techniques by which that solution could be evaluated. The report must be written in a professional manner with an executive summary, a table of contents, and adequate headings to allow a reader to access information quickly and effectively.

Policy Presentation

Students will give 5-10 minute presentations on their policy analysis projects. The paper presentations are worth 25 points. Points are awarded based on the professionalism of the presentation, the clarity of the presentation, and the evidence of analytic ability.

Extra Credit for Stakeholder Contact

Students are encouraged to share their results with their stakeholders. Students can earn 10 points of extra credit for sending the policy briefing to the stakeholder with an introductory letter or for giving the policy presentation to a stakeholder. However, only proposals or presentations that earn grades of A or B+ qualify for this extra credit option.

Class Participation

Students are expected to actively contribute to class discussions. Contributions need to include efforts to understand and apply the assigned readings as well as efforts to bring material from your policy paper research into class discussions. Poor attendance will lower your participation grade. You are expected to be in class unless you have an excused absence.


The grades for the course are based on percentages of points available. The points assigned to each requirement are listed below.

A 92-100% B+ 87-91% B 82-86% C+ 77-81%

C 72-76% D 60-71% F Below 60%


Summary of Points for Assignments

Response Memos (15 @ 10 points) 150

Background Briefing 75

Stakeholder Analysis 50

Presentation 50

Policy Proposal Paper 150

Final 50


Missing exams and assignments Missing exams and written assignments are assigned 0 points. Failure to attend the class period in which an exam is given without prior arrangements is considered missing an exam. Failure to turn in an exam or assignment also qualifies it as a missing exam or assignment.

Late assignments You need to make arrangements at least 2 days ahead of time if you need to hand in an assignment late. If you have not made such arrangements, your assignment will be penalized by half of a letter grade for each day late. This same rule applies to any new due date set with the instructor’s permission.
Academic Honesty

All work that you submit must be your own. All sources must be cited properly. The purchase of "research service" papers, plagiarism, resubmission of prior work, obstructing the progress of others, misuse or abuse of library or computer resources or any form of misrepresentation in gathering or presenting data constitute academic dishonesty and are subject to punishment including an F for the assignment or an F for the course. Suspected cases of academic misconduct will be reported to the Dean’s office and managed according to the College of Arts and Sciences academic honesty guidelines.





Response memos are due on all underlined days – Response memos must be posted to BSCW by 9:00 AM on the assigned day.

Introduction to Policy Process and Policy Analysis

August 22 Introduction

August 27 Public policy and Public Problems

Introduction to common theories of political power and policy

Clemons, Chapter 1

Adolino, Chapter 2

August 29 No Class – American Political Science Association Meeting in Boston

  September 3 Market and Polis Models of Policy and Policy Analysis

Gupta, Chapter 2 (available on BSCW or reserves)

Stone, Chapter 1

September 5 Rational Policy Analysis Model

Clemons, Chapters 2-3

September 10 Nonrational and Pragmatic Adjustments to the Policy Analysis Model

Clemons, Chapters 4-5

Lindblom (Muddling Through) (available BSCW or reserves)

September 12 Bringing in Critical Theory and Democracy

Clemons, chapter 6-7

Wildavsky (Speaking Truth to Power), Introduction and Chapter 11

September 17 Some Analysis Basics

Ripley (Policy Analysis in Political Science), Chapter 7

Clemons, Chapter 8-9  

September 19 Background Briefing Due at class time

  A Closer Look at the Policy Analysis Process

September 24 The Policy Process and Challenges of Analysis--Lindblom and Woodhouse Perspective

Lindblom, Chapters 1-3 and 11

September 26 Elections, and Public Policy

Lindblom, Chapters 4-5

October 1 Bureaucracy, Interest Groups, Business Influence

Lindblom, Chapters 6-8

October 3 Rethinking Pluralism Assumptions

Lindblom, Chapters 9, 10, and 12

Enhancing Analysis -- Policy Design and Community Values

October 8 Equity and Efficiency as Policy Goals

Stone, Chapters 2-3

October 10 Security and Liberty as Policy Goals

Stone, Chapters 4-5

What are other values/goals that are not covered by Stone? What are the sources of those goals? What would Catholic Social Teaching add?

Fall Break!

October 22 Problem Definition: Shaping Politics, Shaping Values

Stone, Chapters 6-8

October 24 Rethinking Solutions: Inducements and Rules

Stone, Chapters 11-12  

October 29 Other Solutions

Stone, Chapters 13-15

Stakeholder Analysis Due at class time

Comparative Public Policy and Policy Presentations

October 31 Revisiting Policy Process, Theories, Actors, and Dynamics

Adolino, Introduction and Chapters 1-4 (2 was read earlier)

November 5, 7, 12, 14. Specific Policy Topics and Policy Presentations – We will choose some mix of the following topics or identify other policy topics of interest. Other readings may be added depending on the topics of interest.

Immigration (Adolino Chapter 5)

Environmental Policy (Adolino Chapter 11)

Fiscal Policy (Adolino Chapter 6)

Taxation Policies (Adolino Chapter 7)

Social Policy (Adolino Chapter 9)

Education Policy (Adolino Chapter 10)

Health Care Policy (Adolino Chapter 8)

Policy Evaluation

November 19 Evaluation Perspectives and Program Verification

Fischer, Chapters 1-3

November 21 Situational Validation

Fischer, Chapters 4-5

Review Schneider discussion of design and considering context

November 26 Paper Due to BSCW by midnight Nov. 26. If the system is not working, email me a copy and keep a copy of the email for your records 

Thanksgiving Break 

December 3 Getting More Philosophical -- Societal Vindication and Social Choice

Fischer, Chapters 6-10

December 5 Wrap Up

Final Thursday, December 12, 8:00 AM

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