Methods of Policy Analysis
The course is designed to teach principles and approaches that can help a policy analyst to:
The primary “methods” taught are strategies for thinking critically and creatively about public policy problems and solutions and for helping public and private leaders to make good decisions about public policies. The course will not teach advanced methdoologies in statistics, econometrics, operations research, or financial analysis, but it will focus on ways to quickly and effectively analyze available information (both quantitative and qualitative) with limited resources and time.
During the course, students will learn by doing analyses themselves and by discussing how to analyze problems in class. Students will examine several different complex policy problems in depth, and they will develop alternative approaches for addressing them, evaluate the impacts of those alternatives, and grapple with the complex and often conflicting considerations involved in making recommendations for action. The specific policy problems have been selected to expose students to a range of substantive areas (e.g., criminal justice, economic development, education, energy, environmental protection, health, and human services) and to a range of generic types of public policies (e.g., regulations, entitlement programs, incentives, etc.).
The course will also examine in depth each of the stages in the policy analysis process, beginning with the factors that determine which policy problems will be dealt with by policy-makers, and continuing with some of the principles and pitfalls involved in analyzing problems, developing and analyzing alternatives, and implementing policies and programs in a political environment.
The topics discussed in class will be limited to U.S. domestic policy issues. Students will need to have a reasonable degree of familiarity with U.S. federal, state, and local government institutions and programs to understand the class discussions and successfully carry out the assignments. International students without this level of understanding may experience some difficulty and they will likely need to spend a significant amount of additional time doing background research on the topics in order to understand class discussions and successfully complete the assignments.
Effective written and oral communications are essential skills for a policy analyst. Consequently, in the assignments in the course, students will be expected to produce well-written memoranda and other materials. A significant portion of the grade for each assignment will be based on the quality of writing.