Seminar in Public Policy
Public Affairs 880K06
Professor: David Landsbergen Time: Thursday, 1:30-4:18
Office: 310F Page Hall Location: 240 Page Hall
Phone: 292-9577 Office Hours: Thursday 4:30-5:30 &
This seminar is designed to heighten the graduate student's ability to think critically
about public policy research. It builds upon the ideas and discussions in "The
History of Public Administration Thought and Current Directions". It is one of the
two policy courses offered in the Ph.D. program in Public Policy.
The Ph. D. degree requires the mastery of a body of research concepts and
techniques and the ability to apply them to extend knowledge in the candidate's
area of expertise. It further requires the ability to analyze critically a body of
literature as a prerequisite for advancing that literature. Mere familiarity is not
sufficient. This course will emphasize the critical assessment of public policy
research on policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation.
There are three primary crosscutting perspectives. There is, first, an historical
perspective that is concerned with the chronology and currency of ideas. A second
perspective is cultural. This perspective illuminates how concepts are reflections of
a distinctive set of values, ideology, and customs as well as preferred modes of
reasoning. In this vein, understanding the epistemology and ontology of the field is
key. The third perspective is analytical with an emphasis on the authority,
justification, value, and "workability" of ideas; i.e., how they shape our thinking, both
normatively and empirically and both intellectually and pragmatically.
The purpose of this course is to introduce doctoral students to the historical
intellectual conversations about the nature and scope of American public policy.
More specifically, the objectives are to:
a. enable students to develop a "cognitive map" of the major contributors and
their intellectual relationships;
b. identify the major theoretical and practical issues in the field and some of
the answers that have already been given;
c. develop the ability to think critically, synthetically, and to develop new
d. learn the craft of writing academic papers; and
e. learn the craft of writing a critical book review.
Course Requirement Percentage of Grade
Weekly Written Critiques 40%
Seminar Participation 20%
Literature or "Classic" Book Review 40%
There are three seminar requirements.
1. Weekly Written Critiques (40% of your grade)
It is expected in a Ph.D. seminar that everyone will read the assigned readings.
In addition, the responsibility of leading the discussion of each one of the readings
will be assigned to various individuals throughout the quarter.
These assignments will be based upon several criteria including, but not limited to,
the interest of the student, how the class discussion develops along any number of
important theoretical themes, or my judgment that someone could benefit from
reading a work "that takes them out of their comfort zone".
Once the quarter begins, we will make up an assignment list for the rest of the
quarter so that you can plan our work schedule. The only individuals responsible
for producing a written critique are the persons responsible for leading the class
discussion on that reading.
Your grade will be based on the quality of the written review as well as how well
you present your review.
The written review should consist of two parts. I have uploaded some examples to
the Carmen website (Knoke.rtf, Lindblom.rtf, Powell.rtf, Taylor.rtf).
The first part should be a brief factual description of the main points of the reading.
This does not involve any critique and ideally your description of what the author(s)
is saying would be agreeable to both the author and critics of the work. This will
allow the reader to quickly identify the main contribution of the work. Please limit
your use of direct quotes, except where necessary.
The second part of the written review should be a critique of the work. Review
Appendix 1, for directions on how to write up a critique of your assigned readings.
Please limit your critique to three pages in length.
Presentation of Review
Your grade is also dependent upon how well you present your review. This includes
how well you present your summary and critique of your assigned reading AND
how well you listen to the comments of your peers (using the same criteria in
Please do not read your critiques! You should understand the reading and your
critique of the work sufficiently that you need only refer to your notes, not read
How to Exchange Files
The written critiques should be made available to the class by Monday night (12
a.m.) so that we have enough time to read, think about, and formulate our questions
before the seminar on Thursday afternoon.
To make the copies available to your colleagues, email a copy of your review in RTF
format to everyone in the class. Our email addresses can be found on the Carmen
Students will receive feedback from their peers during the class discussion and, if
necessary, additional comments from the instructor.
2. Class Participation (20% of your grade)
The second requirement in this class is class participation. Class discussion will
bring out the subtleties, connections to other works, and the relevance and power of
these ideas for modern theory and practice.
Your class participation grade (20%) is dependent upon how well you summarize,
critique and present the article AND listen and react to the presentation made by
your peers of their assigned articles (using the same criteria in Appendix 1). Also,
please review the specific questions I have asked the class to consider for each
Your assignment includes reading others' critiques before the class, listening to
their presentation, and making sure that it makes sense to you and the class.
3. Literature Review OR Review of "Classic" Book in Policy Sciences / Policy
Analysis (40% of your grade)
Please "drop" your assignment in the "Dropbox" on the course website.
Option A: Literature Review Relevant to Your Dissertation / Research Interests
The final assignment is to write a manuscript that traces the intellectual
development of an important issue or field of specialization within public policy that
is relevant to your interests. The primary requirement is that this topic be of
interest to you (which usually means that it may have some relationship to your
future dissertation topic). For example, one could trace the development of
research on public participation and public policy, the role street-level bureaucrats
in implementing policy, or what the critical factors in policy innovation are.
The purpose of this assignment is for you to begin gaining mastery over a particular
subject area in public policy. This is a first and important step in beginning your
dissertation work and ultimately, your professional development as an academic.
Appendix 2 gives some suggestions on how you might proceed with this assignment.
I strongly encourage you to talk to me or to your classmates frequently about your
ideas or doubts. If you do not contact me, I will be contacting you.
Here are the due dates:
1. January 20 - One paragraph description of your topic including an
explanation of the issue, why it is important to study, how it fits in within
your longer career goals. It is important that when you write, you begin
writing with a target journal in mind. Please also identify a target journal
(and secondary and tertiary journals should your article be rejected at the
primary target journal).
2. February 17 - Rough draft of literature review
3. March 10 - Final Paper
Appendix 3 provides a listing of some of the more important journals in the field of
Option B: Review of a "Classic" Book in Policy Analysis or Policy Science
As an alternative, you can review a "classic" book. Appendix 4 lists some suggested
books (and articles). If you would like to read something else, please discuss with
the instructor first.
1. January 20 Identify your selected book
2. February 17 - Rough draft of critique
3. March 10 - Final Paper
The following books are required:
1. Theories of the Policy Process, edited by Paul A. Sabatier. (S) 2007.
2. Evaluating Public Policy, Frank Fischer. (F) 2005.
3. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies (2d. Edition), John Kingdon (K) 2002.
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