POLS 288, Fall, 2014. 

Paper Assignment

   One way to approach analysis of policy choice is to apply an approach that relies on knowledge about actions and consequences.  It is the approach advocated, for example, in the Farmer article from Unit One.  For the purpose of this assignment, a policy is a rule applied in a specific situation that produces a specific change in some state of human affairs.  The rule enacts, actually produces, a priority, the desired state of affairs.  This means the policy contains some claims about cause and effect relationships (‘the rule will bring about the new state of affairs’), and about norms or values (‘the new state of affairs is better than the current one or other alternatives’).  Policy analysis can focus on any of the following four parts:  (a) the rule itself, (b) the ability of implementers to apply the rule in the specific situation, (c) the ability of the rule to produce the desired state of affairs, or (d) the values embodied in the policy. For example, a rule might violate a civil right; it might bring about, in addition to the desired outcome, the deaths of innocent people; and it might pursue values that are not accepted by an overwhelming majority of citizens.  It might cost too much for the benefits achieved, and so on.  In your paper you may need to address more than one of the four parts, but if (c) is your main focus, for example, make sure you do a complete job on that.   There is no magic technique with any of this—humans search for reasons to believe claims, and where possible test these claims.  The usual rules about methodology apply. 

A longer version of this is here. 




   A Rule





Specific          --produces--      Priority

Situation                                (desired state,)

                                                  (or outcome)


Š      The rule is within our power to enact

Š      The rule will produce or force the outcome

Š      This is a claim about cause and effect

Š      The priority is an ethical position, if enacted it is

      a collection of values deemed an improvement

      over the prior situation.


Your Assignment is to analyze one of the decisions listed below, and (a) subject it to the approach to policy analysis described above, and (b) describe how the power situation deflects decision-makers from following that approach. 

1.    The decision to engage ISIS through an air campaign and other military actions.

2.    The decision to approve or disapprove the Keystone XL pipeline.

3.    The decision to pursue or not pursue federal charges against the police officer that killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. 


Assignment Details

Š      5 to 7 double spaced typed pages

Š      Faithfully follow a recognized reference system

Š      Establish a clear focus and thesis—ask what is worth saying.  This means you need to develop a critical perspective that enables you to organize the material and establish a relationship with your reader.  Please borrow heavily from ideas in course readings.  If you use alternatives, make them clear to your reader. 

Š      Introduction is detailed, not overly general

Š       Be as precise as you can.  For example, if your paper concern how interest groups influence officials, help your reader understand how this group operates, and how influential it is.

Š      Paragraphs present data, focus on clear arguments or interpretive claims. 

Š      Argument is supported and developed by evidence, appropriately cited and integrated into text.  To check the structure of your arguments, use Stephen Toulmin’s approach to argumentation (see his Uses of Argument, Cambridge 1969).  Here is an online summary.  

Š      The assignment is worth 20% of your course grade. 

Š      We will follow a paper development process:

o   Declare your topic in class on Tuesday, October 7.  

o   Workshop on policy paper approach, Tuesday October 14.  You should be engaged in background research on your topic. 

o   Bring a printed copy of a description and detailed outline of your paper Tuesday, October 21 for a workshop where we review the policy paper approach and your analysis of power. 

o   An electronic draft of your paper is due November 4.  Each of you will be assigned to review a few papers of your peers. 

o   Papers are due November 18.  REVISION:  You may turn in your paper on Nov. 18.  However, the last round showed that most papers would benefit from another round of reviews.  On the 18th, bring to class a polished version of the first 3 pages of your paper.  We will have a workshop on paper issues. 

§  Revised due date:  December 2.