Studies in Public Policy
This 8-credit course is the academic core of the public policy option in the Cornell in Washington Program, and all students who choose this option are required to enroll. The course is cross-listed as Government 4998, AmSt 4998, ALS 4998, PAM 4060, and CAPS 4998.
The purpose of the option is to encourage your in-depth exposure to American public policy, examined through three different lenses.
- You will consider some of the most important explanations for, and evaluations of, the American policy-making process in both your core course and in your electives.
- You will participate in externships which provide access to, and insights into, the world of politics and policy.
- Finally, in the core course you will undertake a substantial piece of original empirical research on American public policy.
The research project may be on any topic related to public policy, broadly defined; however, the specific research question addressed must satisfy two specific criteria.
- The question must involve a general, rather than a particular, result. In other words, the question must involve more than one unique person, process, or program, thereby making it public, as opposed to private, policy. For example, it would be appropriate to ask whether presidents dealing with a Congress controlled by a different political party are relatively unsuccessful in gaining Congressional approval of their legislative initiatives; it would be insufficient to ask whether President Clinton's initiatives fared better with a Democratic congress than with a Republican one (although an examination of the Clinton case might be very useful in addressing the larger question).
- The question must have potential answers that can be evaluated effectively, if imperfectly, by an original analysis of empirical information available during your stay in Washington.
The project will be done in a series of small steps.
- First, you will write a short problem statement, describing the initial motivation for the research.
- Second, you will write a short background paper reporting on the essential factual and contextual background necessary to frame a reasonable research question.
- Third, you will review the existing literature and identify the major competing arguments.
- Fourth, you will prepare a specific plan for your original research; while most students choose to do comparative case studies, some do crucial case studies, statistical analyses, and/or simulations.
- Fifth, you will present a preliminary report on the information you have gathered.
- Sixth, you will present a rough draft of the completed project.
- Finally, you will present a final paper.
At every step in the process you will have substantial assistance. Before you undertake each of the steps, the professor will discuss and illustrate in class the purpose of that step and the ways in which it can be accomplished. In addition, you will have a tutor assigned who will be available to meet with you every week to discuss your project and who will provide detailed comments on each piece of your project, as the semester progresses, to assist you in crafting the best project possible.
Ultimately, and critically, the project will be your own. It will be a significant accomplishment of which you can, and will, be justifiably proud. Integrating this achievement with your other courses in Washington and with your externship is precisely what makes the Cornell in Washington
semester the best semester for so many CIW alumni.
Studies in the American Experience
Examples of Prior Topics in Public Policy