Friday, June 14, 2013

Moving Forward on the EU Policy Analysis Paper

I've enjoyed reading about your proposed topics for the EU Policy Analysis Paper, and I've also placed some comments/questions on each of your initial posts.  Be sure to check back to your posts to read and respond to the comments/questions that I and others have posted there, as this feedback is important to consider as you refine your topic and continue your background research.  In addition to the feedback that I provided on each of your posts, I also wanted to post a few general pieces of advice here to help you with the process of refining your topic and developing your policy analysis:
  • Be specific in defining the policy problem or issue that will be the object of your analysis.  Remember that the goal of a policy analysis is to develop a very specific account of either how a particular policy came about in the way that it did (historical policy analysis) or to provide prescriptive recommendations for a current policy problem (prescriptive policy analysis).  Both require you to clearly specify the policy/problem at stake.  In other words, a policy analysis paper does not "look at" a general issue, but rather analyzes a specific and well defined policy/problem.
  • Remember to research and use the academic literature (theory!) on your general topic area (e.g. if I am studying EU intervention in Syria, then the general academic literature on interventions or on EU foreign policy will certainly be relevant).  There may not be a great deal of academic literature on your specific policy problem, especially if it is a current or recent issue, but this does not mean the academic literature has nothing to offer for your analysis.  In fact, it is all the more important to research and apply the theoretical and systematic understandings of similar problems when researching a current issue simply because specific information on your issue is likely to be limited and/or unreliable.  Irrespective of whether you are conducting a historical or a prescriptive policy analysis, part of your task is to research and then apply the relevant theoretical understandings of your policy problem in order to develop a more systematic analysis (remember, a policy analysis is not a report or a current events paper!).
  • Follow steps of policy analysis discussed in the readings!  Both the policy analysis handout and the chapter from Patton & Sawicki provide specific advice in terms of the types of information you need to collect for a good policy analysis as well as the specific steps to follow in developing that analysis.  It will be essential to follow these steps as you conduct your analysis, which means paying attention to these steps now as you conduct your background research.

  • Don't wait until returning to the states to conduct your research.  You have the unique chance to collect primary and secondary source materials while in Brussels -- materials that you may not be able to access once you return to the U.S. -- so make sure to make the most of this opportunity.
I hope these tips are helpful.  Please don't hesitate to contact me as

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