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A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis
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A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis
The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving

Sixth Edition


July 2019 | 216 pages | CQ Press
“This book provides a wise and engaging how-to guide that meets the central challenge of policy analysis: combining scientific evidence and social goals to craft practical, real-world solutions.”
—Thomas S. Dee, Barnett Family Professor of Education, Stanford University    

Drawing on more than 40 years of experience with policy analysis, best-selling authors Eugene Bardach and Eric M. Patashnik use real-world examples to teach students how to be effective, accurate, and persuasive policy analysts. The Sixth Edition of A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis presents dozens of concrete tips, new case studies, and step-by-step strategies for the budding analyst as well as the seasoned professional.  

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PREFACE
 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
 
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
 
INTRODUCTION
 
PART I THE EIGHTFOLD PATH
STEP ONE: DEFINE THE PROBLEM

 
STEP TWO: ASSEMBLE SOME EVIDENCE

 
STEP THREE: CONSTRUCT THE ALTERNATIVES

 
STEP FOUR: SELECT THE CRITERIA

 
STEP FIVE: PROJECT THE OUTCOMES

 
STEP SIX: CONFRONT THE TRADE-OFFS

 
STEP SEVEN: STOP, FOCUS, NARROW, DEEPEN, DECIDE!

 
STEP EIGHT: TELL YOUR STORY

 
 
PART II ASSEMBLING EVIDENCE
GETTING STARTED

 
LOCATING RELEVANT SOURCES

 
GAINING ACCESS AND ENGAGING ASSISTANCE

 
CONDUCTING A POLICY RESEARCH INTERVIEW

 
USING LANGUAGE TO CHARACTERIZE AND CALIBRATE

 
PROTECTING CREDIBILITY

 
STRATEGIC DILEMMAS OF POLICY RESEARCH

 
 
PART III HANDLING A DESIGN PROBLEM
IT’S A PRODUCTION SYSTEM

 
CROSSWALKS FROM THE EIGHTFOLD PATH TO “SYSTEMS OF ACTION”

 
DEFINE THE PROBLEM ? FOCUS ON A PRIMARY OUTCOME

 
CONSTRUCT THE ALTERNATIVES ? CONFIGURE THE SYSTEM’S ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND ITS OPERATING PROCESSES

 
SELECT THE CRITERIA ? DEFINE THE OBJECTIVES TO BE ACHIEVED

 
PROJECT THE OUTCOMES ? TEST WHETHER IT WILL WORK

 
CONFRONT THE TRADE-OFFS ? EXAMINE THE SYSTEM FROM MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES

 
DESIGN A TRANSITION STRATEGY

 
 
PART IV “SMART (BEST) PRACTICES” RESEARCH: UNDERSTANDING AND MAKING USE OF WHAT LOOK LIKE GOOD IDEAS FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE
DEVELOP REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

 
ANALYZE SMART PRACTICES

 
OBSERVE THE PRACTICE

 
DESCRIBE GENERIC VULNERABILITIES

 
BUT WILL IT WORK HERE?

 
BACK TO THE EIGHTFOLD PATH

 
 
APPENDIX A THINGS GOVERNMENTS DO
I. TAXES

 
II. REGULATION

 
III. SUBSIDIES AND GRANTS

 
IV. SERVICE PROVISION

 
V. AGENCY BUDGETS

 
VI. INFORMATION

 
VII. THE STRUCTURE OF PRIVATE RIGHTS

 
VIII. THE FRAMEWORK OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

 
IX. EDUCATION AND CONSULTATION

 
X. FINANCING AND CONTRACTING

 
XI. BUREAUCRATIC AND POLITICAL REFORMS

 
 
APPENDIX B UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC AND NONPROFIT INSTITUTIONS: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
MISSION

 
ENVIRONMENT

 
PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT

 
TECHNOLOGY

 
PRODUCTION/DELIVERY PROCESSES

 
FRONTLINE WORKERS AND CO-PRODUCERS

 
PARTNERS AND OTHER OUTSIDERS

 
CENTRALIZATION/DECENTRALIZATION

 
CULTURE AND COMMUNICATIONS

 
POLITICS

 
LEADERSHIP

 
CHANGE

 
 
APPENDIX C STRATEGIC ADVICE ON THE DYNAMICS OF GATHERING POLITICAL SUPPORT
SEQUENCING

 
TIMING

 
 
APPENDIX D TIPS FOR WORKING WITH CLIENTS
 
APPENDIX E SUGGESTIONS FOR INCORPORATING “BIG DATA” AND RIGOROUS SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE INTO POLICY ANALYSIS
WHERE TO BEGIN

 
KNOW YOUR DATA

 
USE ADMINISTRATIVE DATA AND EXPERIMENTS TO INFORM PROBLEM DEFINITION

 
EXPAND YOUR OPTION SET AND SEE CONSTRAINTS AS LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

 
USE DATA VISUALIZATION TO TELL YOUR STORY

 
 
REFERENCES
 
INDEX

“Bardach and Patashnik provide a strong analytical framework to guide the novice student in exploring policy options. The text is substantive yet approachable, providing a bridge between theory and practice that is meaningful for both undergraduate and graduate students of public policy.”

Kimberly Ratcliff
Ohio State University, John Glenn College of Public Affairs

"Professors Bardach and Patashnik's "Eightfold Path" provides a wise and engaging how-to guide that meets the central challenge of policy analysis: combining scientific evidence and social goals to craft practical, real-world solutions."

Thomas S. Dee
Stanford University

“Bardach and Patashnik’s  A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis has become a genuine classic of policy analysis because it offers a versatile framework for confronting policy issues of all types—from persistent, long-standing problems to new, emergent challenges. Like every classic work, it contains different layers of insight for different readers. Junior analysts can use the eight basic elements as a primer. Intermediate analysts can add the design principles. Experienced analysts can deepen their practice by applying the eightfold path to increasingly complex problems. I wouldn’t think of teaching policy analysis at any level without this elegant guide to our craft.”

Karen Baehler
School of Public Affairs, American University

A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis still remains the most accessible and practical guide for those learning the craft of public policy analysis.  It offers a clear road map to conduct effective policy analysis, and provides a terrific list of useful resources and helpful hints to do so.  The newer substantive chapters in the book on design problems, gathering political support, and asking the right questions make clear that the authors believe, justifiably, that policy analysis is not a linear craft and that policy adoption is not strictly technical.  The additional chapter on understanding the role of big data in policy analysis is terrific and exposes readers to an important question in policy analysis of what is evidence. The Guide should be required reading for all students in public affairs type undergraduate- and graduate-level programs."

Michael Stoll
University of California, Los Angeles

"This book remains the gold standard for introducing students to key issues in policy analysis. I have used it many times in teaching Policy Analysis courses for both students and practicing policy analysts. The new edition adds a lot of helpful new material (e.g., discussions of Big Data) that will be helpful to students struggling to think systematically about how to assess policy alternatives. Other books cover economic and technical analytical skills that are essential to policy analysis, but no other source covers the process of policy analysis with the depth, insight and wisdom of Bardach and Patashnik."

R. Kent Weaver, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy
Georgetown University

?"From my undergraduate “Introduction to Public Policy” course through MPP client-based policy analysis courses, A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis has been essential reading.  The book sets students on an eight-fold path from succinctly defining policy problems through advocating on behalf of a well-reasoned proposal.  It provides structured thinking for students new to public policy and hands-on advice for those about to become policy professionals – all in tight, well-written, accessible, and interesting prose.  It is a pleasure to see the growth in students that this text helps ensure and to hear from our alumni who refer back to it so regularly."

Craig Volden, Professor of Public Policy and Politics and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
University of Virginia

“I was introduced to Bardach’s book when I was a graduate student and have begun using it in my courses for the past twenty years. The content and style is very accessible and informative for students who want to learn about practical skills that will help them in the workplace.”

Kimberly Speers
School of Public Administration, University of Victoria

A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis is the essential text to introduce health policy students to the practice of policy analysis. The authors offer a persuasive argument for why defining the problem is the fundamental yet challenging first step of policy analysis; this lesson is critical for health policy, where issue rhetoric abounds. The book offers a step-by-step methodology that appeals to students’ need for structure, while reminding readers that the process of policy analysis—and politics—is inherently complex and non-linear. Students who master the book’s core lessons will learn to embrace an iterative mode of thinking and a storytelling mode of writing, skills that will serve policy professionals and policy researchers well throughout their careers.”

Sarah Gollust
Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Updated edition, more current examples.

Professor Grace Bahng
Sol Price School of Public Policy, Univ Of Southern California
August 27, 2019

Sample Materials & Chapters

Introduction

Part I: The Eightfold Path


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