Public Policy Analysis
The doctoral field in public policy offers students mastery of the interdisciplinary concepts that form the basis of public policy analysis. Public policy analysis can be described generically as "client-oriented advice relevant to public decisions and informed by social values" (Wiemer and Vining 1999). With a focus on the preparation of students for careers in academic institutions, non-university research settings, government and other institutional settings where public policy is made and influenced, the policy field promotes an understanding of the empirical, methodological and theoretical issues that have framed and continue to frame policy analysis and research. Although students may choose to focus on a core area, such as urban poverty or housing, the overall objective is comprehensive exposure to the analytical methods and social science theory and research that frames public policy discourse.
Students are also strongly encouraged to pursue this field with attention to a set of questions about the application of theory to policy analysis: How have the theoretical foundations and related methods of policy analysis and research shifted over time? How does theory guide action? What are the distinctions that can be made among the conceptual frameworks that guide theory and application among the various social science disciplines?
Economics and political science have traditionally anchored the conceptual foundations of the policy process and rational models of policy activity, particularly after systematic analysis became institutionalized as the normative model in policy, planning and evaluation during the mid to late 1960s. Since the late 1960s, however, the field of public policy has witnessed an intellectual revolution among the social sciences that form the basis of research and policy analysis. Sociological, historical and anthropological methods and theories, for example, have begun to expand our conceptual approaches to public policy in different ways, particularly as questions about the role of informal decision-making, politics and identity have become important considerations in the evaluation of policy action (Stone 1997). An exploration of the role of the humanities has also become an area of great interest in recent years (Schram 1997; Roe 1994). Students should become familiar with how analytical methods and theories from these various disciplines and intellectual communities offer competing and/or complementary approaches to the rational model.
The Doctoral Field in Policy Analysis Examination: The examination for this view has traditionally trisected the issues and the literature, with questions about public policy formation and implementation and a role policy analysis in part 1, questions about efficiency and public economies in part 2, and questions about evaluation research strategies and methodologies in part 3.