Public Policy Analysis: An Introduction (2nd Edition)

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9780137385508: Public Policy Analysis: An Introduction (2nd Edition)

Taking a systematic approach, this text stresses the adequate formulation of policy problems as a crucial step in solving them. It covers the historical evolution of policy analysis, the definition and formulation of complex policy problems, and the analysis of policy arguments. For professionals working in the fields of public policy evaluation and public administration.

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Taking a systematic approach, this text stresses the adequate formulation of policy problems as a crucial step in solving them. It emphasizes the need to understand the political contexts in which policy analysis is practiced, and the application of policy analysis to problems facing governments in increasingly complex societies. The Second Edition provides up-to-date information of problem structuring methods and a simplified format for presenting policy analysis.

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This edition of Public Policy Analysis, like its two predecessors, is intended both as a textbook and as an extended critical essay on the field of public policy analysis. The primary audience for the book is upper-division undergraduate and graduate students completing their first course in multidisciplinary policy analysis. Because the book addresses concerns of several social science disciplines and social professions, it provides case materials and examples in policy arenas including:

  • energy and environment
  • foreign affairs
  • public health
  • criminal justice
  • social welfare
  • science and technology
  • economic and social development
  • urban affairs
  • transportation and safety
  • employment and labor
  • education
  • communications

This book takes a pragmatic, critical, and multidisciplinary approach. One of my beliefs is that the theory and practice of policy analysis must be distinguished from that of the disciplines in which policy analysis originates. Although policy analysis builds on political science, economics, and other social science disciplines and social professions, it also seeks to transform them into a new multidisciplinary whole. In this context, I define policy analysis as a process of multidisciplinary inquiry that creates, critically assesses, and communicates information that is useful for understanding and improving policies.

This book recognizes that many of the concepts and methods of this multidisciplinary field are likely to be unfamiliar. For this reason special instructional devices and learning strategies are employed throughout the book:

  • Advance organizers. The book uses advance organizers, especially visual displays, to introduce students to the logical structure of methods and techniques covered later. The advance organizer for the book as a whole is the information-processing model of policy inquiry presented in the first chapter and throughout the book. This and other advance organizers help students grasp complex relations and critically examine the assumptions that underlie theories, methods, and techniques.
  • Learning objectives. The objectives that students should attain by reading each chapter and completing related assignments are listed at the end of that chapter. I have tried to state these objectives in terms of the acquisition of knowledge and skills to do or perform something. -For example, learning objectives refer to the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed to recognize, define, understand, compare, contrast, explain, predict, estimate, evaluate, synthesize, diagnose, plan, and apply. By stating objectives in this way the emphasis is on active rather than passive learning, on application rather than regurgitation.
  • Key terms and concepts. It is important to build a multidisciplinary vocabulary of policy analysis. Key terms and concepts of policy analysis are defined when first introduced in the text and listed at the end of each chapter.
  • Review Questions. Knowledge and skills in policy analysis must be reinforced. For this reason, review questions are provided at the end of each chapter. The review questions address two kinds of skills: so-called higher-order skills in conceptualizing, interpreting, explaining, synthesizing, evaluating, and applying; and lower-order technical skills in calculating, estimating, and computing. Review questions may be used by students for self-study and by instructors who are developing written assignments, examinations, and tests.
  • Demonstration Exercises. Knowledge and skills do not stick unless there are frequent opportunities to apply them to real-world problems. For this reason, each chapter contains cases that supply a basis for demonstrating the application of different kinds of knowledge and skills. By completing demonstration exercises students are drawn away from idealized notions of "perfect" analysis ("blackboard policy analysis") and empowered by analyzing real-life problems. Reference. In addition to literature cited in footnotes, each chapter is accompanied by suggested readings keyed to the issues addressed in the chapter. In this edition, I have attempted to include literature that is representative of many of the most recent developments in public policy analysis.
  • Guidelines for written and oral communication. Students who master methods and techniques of policy analysis often experience difficulties when they must not only obtain proper analytic and quantitative solutions, but also communicate conclusions and recommendations in the form of policy memoranda, policy issue papers, and oral briefings. To overcome these difficulties, appendices present step-by-step guidelines on how to prepare policy issue papers (Appendix I), executive summaries (Appendix 2), policy memoranda (Appendix 3), and oral briefings (Appendix 4). In addition, a new chapter (9) examines the process of policy communication and offers strategies for improving it.
  • The political context of policy analysis. Two newly written chapters address the process of policy analysis (Chapter 1) and its role in the policymaking process (Chapter 2). Policy analysis is treated as a systematic intellectual activity embedded in a political process. The emphasis in these chapters is on political factors that facilitate and constrain the use of policy analysis in real-life settings.
  • Policy argumentation, public discourse, and critical thinking. A newly developed chapter on policy argumentation (Chapter 8) shows how analysts can translate even the most specialized technical analyses into policy arguments, thus contributing to processes of public discourse and policy debate. The chapter also elaborates the many forms of reasoning—political, economic, ethical, legal—that are used in policy debates. Finally, by systematically examining policy arguments, students engage in a process of critical thinking whereby the assumptions underlying many forms of policy argumentation are raised to a level of explicit consciousness.

In the past twenty and more years this book has been used and evaluated in regular degree programs in social science departments and in professional schools of public policy and public administration in this country and abroad. The book has also been used and evaluated in training programs and projects in government agencies. The extensive revisions incorporated in this third edition reflect much of what I have learned from these evaluations, from my own teaching and training experiences, and from doing policy analyses and other applied research projects for agencies at the local, state, national, and international levels.

By now there are so many students and faculty colleagues whose reactions have improved this book that a full list is too long to present here. I will say only that students in the MPA Program in Public Management and Policy and the Ph.D. Program in Public Policy Research and Analysis, both in the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, have provided insights, criticisms, and suggestions which have improved this book. In addition, colleagues in Pittsburgh and elsewhere have offered helpful advice on various parts of the book, directly and through discussions of my published journal articles and papers.

I wish to acknowledge those who reviewed this and previous editions when they were being prepared. These include David Nice of Washington State University, David Houston of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Louise Comfort of the University of Pittsburgh. Sheila Kelly, Lien Rung-Kao, Sujatha Raman, and Eric Sevigny assisted in preparing materials for this and previous editions. I am grateful to Kate Freed for editorial and technical assistance and to John Shannon for guiding the book through the production process.

William N. Dunn
Graduate School of Public
and International Affairs
University of Pittsburgh

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