The essential tasks of public policy analysts are "to find the appropriate analytic tools for (1) poorly specified questions, (2) usually delivered in vague and ambiguous terms, (3) by superiors who themselves are not always sure what the right question is, and then apply these tools to improve organizational and social choices. They do it in time for the committee hearings in three weeks, not on a schedule of their own choosing nor for delivery at such time as they are completely sure of their results. And the 'analytic tools' often include not just inferential procedures to estimate pre-existing models, but making and clarifying the models, that may be as metaphoric as they are analytic" (O'Hare, 2008, p. 1031).
The primary objective of this class is for you to have the experience of actually doing professional quality policy analysis. This means that the work you do outside of class, work developing your policy analysis, will be as important as the work in class.
To be successful in conducting and producing professional level policy analysis you will need to draw upon and, at times, integrate many of the lessons learned in other classes. This is the reason that the School of Public Policy describes policy analysis as a “capstone” course for MSPP students. It is a tools application course, not a tools development course. With a few exceptions, I assume that students come to the course with the tools developed in research design, statistics, cost-benefit analysis, policy and political process and substantive policy courses. If you are taking research design and statistics at the same time as this course, that is permissible. But if you have no background in statistics or research design, and little knowledge of the policy process then you need to talk with me about whether you should be in this course.
Most class material for PUBP 6201 focuses on the professional policy analyst roles, institutional contexts, skill sets, politics, professional norms and ethics and, in general, the nature of the profession, in all its variety. The course is experiential in nature and involves considerable “hands on” work with cases, exercises and applied problem solving. In addition to the primary objective given above, other objectives include:
(1) to enhance your understanding of the role of discretion and values in public policy analysis;
(2) to strengthen your skills in group analysis and group problem-solving;
(3) to provide a “low cost” set of opportunities for execution of context-based public policy analysis skills;
(4) to improve your individual and group communication skills by providing several opportunities for written work and oral presentation; and
(5) to give you exposure to a wide variety of policy controversies.
But do not lose sight of the fact that the most important objective is for you to produce high quality policy analysis. This course is meant to provide excellent preparation for a professional paper or thesis in the program and for conducting analytic work in many of the kinds of jobs our graduates go into.