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Public Affairs 3000: Public Policy Analysis

This is a sample syllabus to provide general information about the course and it's requirements. Course requirements are subject to change. This syllabus does not contain all assignment or course detail and currently enrolled students should reference the syllabus provided by their instructor. For a specific syllabus, please email us a request.

Course Overview

3 Credit Hours
Modalities Available: In Person 
Prerequisite: ECON 2001 and GE Data Analysis

Learn the fundamentals of public policy analysis, gain a toolkit of methods for analyzing public policy issues and learn ways of professionally communicating the results. Students will explore policy research and modeling techniques useful for analyzing complex, real-world issues involving multiple actors with diverse interests, information uncertainty, institutional complexity and ethical controversy.

Course Goals, Objectives and Learning Outcomes.

Upon successful completion of the course, students should have a strong understanding of the following:

  1. What policy analysis is and how it is performed.
  2. The role of markets in allocating resources and classifications of market failure that justify public sector intervention (e.g., public goods, imperfect competition, externalities, information asymmetry).
  3. Effective public sector interventions to correct market failures (e.g., taxes, subsidies, quotas, regulation) and their context, tradeoffs, and implications.
  4. Various evaluative criteria and their role in policy analysis and policymaking.
  5. Using empirical analysis to evaluate complex policy decisions involving competing evaluative criteria and a diversity of interests.

Upon successful completion of the course, students should have gained the following skills:

  • Basic microeconomic analysis of various policy proposals.
  • Basic risk and decision analysis – including expected value estimation.
  • Discounting techniques for performing basic cost-benefit analysis.
  • Extremely basic usage of social network analysis.
  • Professional communication of analytical results via policy briefs.

Requirements and Expectations

You will be graded out of 100 points. Your course grade will be based upon homework, labs, discussion boards, a peer review, a midterm, and final assignment. 

  • Discussion Board: 5%, 5 points, collaboration optional
  • Homework: 20%, 20 points, collaboration optional
  • Lab: 20%, 20 points, independent work
  • Midterm Brief Draft: 20%, 20 points, independent work
  • Peer Review: 10%, 10 points, independent work
  • Final Brief: 25%, 25 points, independent work

Discussion Board
Discussion boards are developed to challenge students to think critically about the material reviewed during a given week, and to promote an exchange of perspectives with others in the course. Students will be provided discussion board prompts on Carmen Canvas with the expectation of replying to these prompts.

To encourage successful student interaction with the lecture material, homework assignments will be provided throughout the semester. The homework will reflect the course material and serve as practice for the analytical techniques learned in the course. Time will be provided during regularly scheduled lectures to introduce students to the topics and methods requisite for each assignment. Students are encouraged to bring their laptops to class to follow along with the instructor when demonstrations are provided, and/or take detailed notes that will help them with the assignment at home or in a campus computing lab. These assignments may be completed together, but submissions must be individual and unique (i.e., multiple students may not submit the exact same work).

The labs are designed to give students an applied set of assignments to cement their understanding of the processes and methods introduced in the readings, lectures, and homework. Labs will build upon each other and culminate in the completion of a Final Policy Brief related to each student’s policy interests.

Midterm Policy Brief Draft
There is no formal midterm examination in this course. Instead, students will submit a rough draft of their Final Policy Brief using their previously submitted labs and incorporating feedback from the instructor. This draft should be formatted similarly to the Example Policy Brief provided on the Carmen website and address all points outlined in the rubric for the assignment.

Peer Review
Each student will be assigned up to three (3) Midterm Policy Brief Drafts to critique. For each assigned draft, the student will assign a score on the provided rubric and leave a substantial comment of at least 2-3 sentences for each criterion.

Final Policy Brief
There is no formal final examination in this course. Instead, students will submit a polished, professional policy brief on a topic aligned with their interests and present their research. This final policy brief must build on previously submitted labs, the Midterm Policy Brief, and feedback provided by the instructor on all those assignments. This brief should be formatted similarly to the Example Policy Brief provided on the Carmen website and address all points outlined in the rubric for the assignment.

Course Schedule

Week 1:

  • Introductions
  • Consumers of research

Week 2:

  • Policy Analysis

Week 3:

  • Policy Analysis Process
  • Lab 1: Problem Definition and Policy Writing

Week 4:

  • Market Failures

Week 5:

  • Market Failures
  • Lab 2: Markets and Market Failures

Week 6:

  • Evaluation Criteria, Equity and Justice
  • Lab 3: Evaluation Criteria

Week 7:

  • Policy Implementation and Alternatives
  • Lab 4: Policy Implementation

Week 8: 

  • Policy Brief Workshop
  • Draft Policy Brief Due

Week 9:

  • Program Evaluation

Week 10:

  • Statistical Evidence in Policy Analysis 

Week 11:

  • Discounting Risk
  • Discounting Time

Week 12:

  • Cost Benefit Analysis I

Week 13:

  • Student Choice

Week 14:

  • Policy Brief Workshops


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