Approved by Faculty Senate.
University Studies Course Approval Form
Department: Political Science and Public Administration
Course Number: 425
Semester Hours: 3
Frequency of Offering: Alternate Years
Course Title: Policy Studies
Catalog Description: 425 Policy Studies - 3 Semester Hours
This is an EXISTING COURSE previously approved by A2C2
Department Contact Person: Darrell Downsddowns@winona.edu
This course is proposed to meet the requirements of the WRITING FLAG.
The primary objective of Policy Studies 425 is to introduce students to the craft of producing useful and accurate information for decision makers in the public sector. Several methodological and substantive dimensions of public policy are explored in order to practice skills in making defensible policy-relevant recommendations.
Good research and writing are essential elements in making defensible policy recommendations. This course is tailored to give students several opportunities to practice their writing in the context of their discipline in areas such as health care reform, environmental protection, campaign finance, global security, public finance, etc. Over the course of the semester, each student will be required to write five evaluations (policy briefs) on a particular public policy/program. These evaluations are expected to be approximately five pages (single-spaced), and they must be of a format consistent with the textbook guidelines and/or with the general guidelines of briefs prepared by the U.S. General Accounting Office. Students will have the opportunity to respond to instructor comments on first drafts of their policy briefs and amend their papers accordingly. The performance of the student work on these policy briefs will define the final course grade.
Students are also required to write weekly summaries and critiques of journal articles related to course material. These critiques are un-graded, but students do present them to their peers for discussion and comment during the class.
Writing Flag Course Outcomes
1. Practice the processes for creating and completing successful writing in their fields.
Policy analysts rarely have the option of choosing their topic of research and they rarely have the time to prepare extensive reports. Students in POLS 425 will be assigned research questions in particular areas of public policy and are responsible for writing policy briefs in response to the questions. Each student will prepare five such policy briefs (each amounting to approximately five single-spaced pages in length), and they will have the opportunity to revise their drafts in response to written comments by the instructor. Each policy brief is graded on the following criteria:
1. Demonstrated knowledge of policy area;
2. Skill in conducting thorough and systematic research; and the
3. Ability to apply policy analysis tools & concepts to written and oral reports and policy evaluations.
2. Understand the main features and uses of writing in their fields.
Writing in policy analysis is generally a combination of descriptive and evaluative writing presented to an audience of government decision makers. Frequently, this research and writing is presented in the form of a recommendation to change a current program or to develop a new program. Each student will have the opportunity to describe programs, establish criteria, evaluate policy-relevant data, and make recommendations for policy improvement. This opportunity occurs in the preparation of the required five policy briefs.
3. Adapt their writing to the general expectations of readers in their fields.
The first two weeks of the course deal with institutions of government and public policy that utilize (or not) the work of policy analysts. The students must also examine how the analysis is judged within a political environment. For example, perennial issues of accountability and ethics, partisan and ideological bias, and questions of political power versus authority are routine for public policy analysts. The audience of policy analysts are typically legislators and mid to upper level administrators. The first three to four weeks of the course will emphasize a variety of the political expectations of policy analysis ranging from the demands for quick responses due to relatively short time horizons of elected leaders to the growing interest for guidelines of professional conduct.
4. Make use of the technologies commonly used for research and writing in their fields.
The third week of the course is devoted to research strategies. Both traditional (secondary and primary) research data are examined along with conducting research through Internet technology. The course frequently makes use of WSU librarians' expertise on presentations of public document research through computer based technology. Throughout the remainder of the course, students will devote the majority of their time involved in this class researching their policy briefs or critiques of journal articles.
5. Learn the conventions of evidence, format, usage, and documentation in their fields.
The fourth week of the course is devoted to the appropriate selection of criteria and methods for weighting such criteria when preparing evaluations. In turn, the emphasis of the fifth week is on conceptualizing variables and making inferences from available evidence. Format guidelines and documentation requirements used in this course are those recommended by the American Political Science Association, which are consistent with the practice of the U.S. General Accounting Office and generally with most state level legislative research offices. Throughout the remainder of the course, the students will have an opportunity to practice the conventions of evidence, format, usage, and documentation as they relate to their policy briefs and journal article critiques.
Darrell Downs, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science and Public Administration
457-5405; 117 Minne
Office Hours: TBA
POLICY STUDIES 425 2002
Required: Basic Methods of Policy Analysis and Planning. 1993. 2nd ed. Carl Patton and David Sawicki. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Recommended: Writing in Political Science: A Practical Guide. 2000. 2nd ed. Diane E. Schmidt. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
Additional readings assignments will be provided by the professor via Internet links.
OBJECTIVES. This course is an introduction to the craft of producing useful and accurate information to decision makers in the public sector. Several methodological and substantive dimensions of public policy will be explored in order to hone your skills in making defensible policy-relevant recommendations.
This is an advanced course in political science. I assume that you already possess a relatively well-rounded understanding of political institutions and processes. If you have successfully completed American Politics 120 or a comparable course, you are prepared to enter the world of policy studies.
When you complete this course, you will be more conversant in the operation of state, national, and local policies in areas such as: poverty, crime, public education, health care, homelessness, environmental degradation, and security. Moreover, you will possess basic resources and strategies for evaluating public programs. You should be prepared to research a wide variety of policy issues in what seems to be a very short time and to write and orally present formal policy recommendations. This will help prepare you for advanced graduate training in public policy and/or entry level staff positions in public service.
FORMAT. This is a seminar course, and the format largely mirrors how this course would be taught in most graduate programs in the United States. Each evenings seminar is essentially a forum for: 1) sharing a large body of information on substantive areas of policy, 2) reinterpreting that information via the professional language and approaches of policy analysts, and 3) discussing how to build defensible policy recommendations.
Ordinarily, at the beginning of each seminar, I will make reading assignments for the following week, and then provide an introductory lecture on the evening's selected topics. Selected students will then report on their own investigations of seminar topics for the purpose of leading a more general class discussion of policy recommendations and/or the challenges involved in making recommendations. Questions and discussion on course material are welcomed and encouraged at all times.
ATTENDANCE. Missing class with advanced notice is acceptable on rare occasions, but more than one absence without advanced notice will result in a one letter grade reduction in your final grade. If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible.
PRECIS. Each week (except the first week), you must arrive to class with a written summary and critique of a professional journal article dealing with a public policy problem. These summaries and critiques, which I refer to as precis, must be presented orally (informally) to the class and prepared in a one-page typed format to be delivered to me, which I will then distribute to other class members. This précis is essentially an un-graded, albeit required, synopsis of an article that will help the class become familiar with a large and diverse body of policy-relevant literature. Each precis must contain the following information:
The précis should be single-spaced and no longer than one typed page. In some cases, I will provide the articles for the precis, but ordinarily, you will select these articles on your own with my assistance.
POLICY BRIEFS. Each student is also required to write five policy briefs on selected areas of public policy. The length of the briefs should be approximately five pages (typed, single-spaced). Each brief is your response to a policy-relevant problem that I choose randomly from a predetermined set of problems. The style must be compatible with that of a professionally recognized style manual such as that of the American Political Science Association, Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Languages Association, etc. The recommended text above (Writing in Political Science) provides appropriate guidance on style and research techniques.
I will provide written comments to a first draft of each policy brief, and the final version is due one week after you have received my written comments on the draft.
POLICY BRIEF GRADE CALCULATION. Your grade on each brief is based on your:
1. Demonstrated knowledge of policy area
2. Skill in conducting thorough and systematic research
3. Ability to apply policy analysis tools & concepts to written and oral reports and policy evaluations
OVERALL COURSE GRADE. All précis must be completed in order to pass this course, and your final course grade is based upon an average grade of your policy briefs. In addition, I reserve the option of awarding students with bonus points (not to exceed one letter grade level) in proportion to their contributions to class discussion.
SECTION I. FOUNDATIONS OF POLICY STUDIES
Week 1. Methods (addresses Writing Flag outcome B)
Week 2. Policy process, cycles, and frameworks (addresses Writing Flag outcomes B and C)
Week 3. Policy research & writing (addresses Writing Flag outcomes D)
Week 4. Evaluative criteria (addresses Writing Flag outcome E)
Week 5. Conceptualization and making valid inferences (addresses Writing Flag outcome E)
SECTION II. SUBSTANTIVE POLICY AREAS
Week 6. Economic Policy
Week 7. Health Care Reform
Week 8. Poverty & wealth
Week 9. Crime
Week 10. Public education
Week 11. Economic development & Planning
Week 12. Environmental policy
Week 13. National security
Week 14. Good government policy
Week 15. Catch up day and course evaluations
* Additional required reading will be provided by the professor.
With advance notice, all topics are subject to change.