Policy and Analysis Research

POLICY RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS PAPER Students are to prepare and submit a thoroughly researched and well written policy analysis paper. A policy analysis paper requires students to research in depth an issue of current public concern. It can be an issue of ongoing political debate or an issue that has newly gained the attention of policy makers. A policy analysis defines the problem or issue at hand, describes its background and provides a balanced assessment of options that policy makers could pursue to resolve the problem. The policy analysis paper should conclude with a recommended course of action for policy makers.  PURPOSE  The purpose of this assignment is fourfold. The first objective is to get you to understand how an important problem works its way through the legislative and executive system and the impact of policy outcomes on society. The second objective is to expand your policy expertise on a specific policy issue. The third objective is to develop your methodological and research skills. Therefore fourth a policy environment with an emphasis on data gathering, analysis and explanation. Our objective is to make your research and writing a learning experience.  GUIDELINES FOR CHOOSING TOPIC Consider a wide range of policy options before settling on a number of policy options to discuss scenarios and analyze. Brainstorming, research of other policy analyses and writings will help you locate and formulate policy options for resolving a particular issue. Examine a federal policy issue that involves Congress and the Presidency in terms of constitutional authority, effective power, and actual legislation or executive action. The issue may deal with a current domestic or foreign policy topic as long as it is consistent with the other guidelines listed in this section. The policy issue must be an issue that is presently in discussion in Washington, D.C. and the policy issue must focus on the federal level of action, but may have state and local implications (e.g. education policy; mandates; etc.)  GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPING CONTENT  1. Introduce the problem you wish to research and analyze- Whether the issue is universal health care, improved educational achievement or campaign-finance reform, you should identify a specific issue and articulate why it is important. Describe the background relevant to the definition of problem. Clarify the issue and its importance during the period of your internship. Establish a set of criteria for resolving the problem in question. For example, an increase in the number of people covered by health insurance represents a criterion for resolving the issue of the uninsured. Improved scores on standardized academic assessments and higher graduation rates from high schools would be criteria for improved achievement in education.  2. Place the issue in historical context- Describe how the policy issue arose and then outline previous efforts, if any, to address the policy issue. Summarize the results of prior policy efforts including a discussion of the legislative history of the policy issue. To this end, you should identify congressional action taken on the policy in the past and presently during your internship if any. To detail the issue and any prior policy responses, you can use a range of sources, including books, articles from scholarly journals, previous policy analyses, government reports, legislative materials and news articles.  3. Agenda Setting- Explain what factors and how the policy issue got the attention of policymakers in Congress or the White House. In doing so, discuss the key policy players, including interest groups, lobbyists, and identify the major stakeholders involved. These are the individuals and groups likely to affect or be affected by new government policies taken in response to the issue under discussion. Discuss all relevant policy makers with power to influence policy outcomes and detail each stakeholder’s interest in the underlying policy.  4. Policy options and outcomes- Explain the bargaining strategies and trade-offs that influence the fate of the policy issue.  For example, was a congressional bill involved that became public policy or law.  Explain the current status and identify a set of policy options the government might take to resolve the issue. Be sure it is an analysis, not a manifesto outlining broader social, economic or political changes. Your research options involve substantive policy measures aimed at the issue in question. Your research on the issue and past policy actions will help you identify policy proposals and create new approaches for addressing the identified problem. Explain the policy process using any of the key concepts (e.g.  policy setting, focus events, window of opportunity, outcomes, etc. ) presented in lectures and readings.  Compare the policy alternatives outlined in the previous step, applying the specified criteria. This forms the main body of your policy analysis research paper. Discuss how each alternative would meet the criteria for issue resolution identified in your introduction.. Depending, on the specific issue and the available data, compare policy alternatives with qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis. Quantitative methods are especially effective in weighing the how the costs and benefits of a policy proposal. Consider political factors as well; describe how the stakeholders would be affected by the various policy alternatives.  5. Assessment of Efficacy – Analysis and Evaluation. Recommend a policy action, based on your analysis of a set of alternatives. Articulate reasons, supported by facts and evidence, why the policy proposal you have chosen would be the best avenue from addressing the issue in question. How has your study of this policy question affected your thinking about the policy process and government? What could be done to produce a policy outcome that better serves the public interest?  6. Cite Sources-Document and cite all sources correctly for footnotes and bibliography. Careful note-taking during your research will save time and headaches later.  Format: Review drafts for syntax and spelling before turning in a final copy. Errors in grammar, documentation, and spelling will reduce your grade. Papers must be double-spaced, word processed in 12-point font, properly footnoted and be no less than 18 pages and not exceed 20 pages, excluding footnotes and bibliography. An annotated bibliography of sources must be attached. Use either MLA or APA style for formatting text, in-text citations, endnotes and bibliography. Customary standards of academic integrity will apply, meaning independent authorship and no plagiarism. Grading: Policy Analysis Papers will be graded on:  1. Mechanics: well written clear organization, use of standard English grammar, no spelling  2.  Evidence of Critical Thinking: application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of key components of a policy paper;  3. Development of Ideas: policy analysis, discussion and policy prescription. is well reflection, with well-developed thoughts, ideas and details; the paper shows evidence of tion, creativity and a grasp of policy concepts and policy process including: • Definition of the problem or issue. Highlight the urgency and state significant findings based on the data. Objectivity is your priority, so resist the urge to overstate.  •Analyze- do not merely present—the data. Show how you arrived at the findings or recommendations through analysis of qualitative or quantitative data. Draw careful conclusions that make sense of the data and do not misrepresent it. Your data should be replicable. • Summarize your findings or state recommendations. Provide specific recommendations or findings in response to specific problems and avoid generalizations.  • Generate criteria for evaluating data. Explain the key assumptions and methodology underlying your analysis and prioritize the criteria you rely on to assess evidence.  • If you are producing recommendations, develop a theory of change, and analyze the o.options and tradeoffs according to your methodology and assess their feasibility. What are the pros and cons? What is feasible? What are the predictable outcomes? Develop a logic model to grid your analysis and support your assertions with relevant data.  • Address—and when appropriate rebut—counterarguments, caveats, alternative interpretations, and reservations to your findings or recommendations. Your credibility as a policy analyst relies on your ability to locate and account for counterargument. You should be sensitive to the likely counterarguments that a decision-maker would face in implementing or acting on your recommendations or findings.  • Suggest next steps and the implications of the findings or recommendations. You may briefly address the feasibility of next steps or explore the implications of your analysis.  • Distill the conclusions succinctly in a concluding section and remind the decision-maker of the big picture, the overall goal, the necessity of the investigation, or of the urgency for action. This answers the “Who cares?” question that reminds the reader of the value of the research and recommendations. Remember you are targeting a decision maker, and as such you should reflect the decision-maker’s primary concerns. 

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