The core characteristics of positivist and post-positivist approaches to policy analysis 

Drawing on the material presented throughout the topic (as well as your own research), write an essay on a specific policy issue or problem which:

Identifies and outlines the core characteristics of positivist and post-positivist approaches to policy analysis
Critically examines the advantages, disadvantages and general efficacy of positivist and post-positivist approaches to policy analysis respectively
Explains the role and importance played by values in the policy development process, and, drawing on relevant examples (eg policy documents or legislation), explains why policy analysts and others involved in the policy development process need to be explicitly aware of the underlying values on which policies are based.
An indicative list of policy issues/problems that you could address is below. Note that this list is designed to provide you with ideas only and that you may choose a policy problem or issue that is not on the list. Problems/issues that relate to countries other than Australia are most welcome.

Analysis of the Stepping up report on social inclusion of people with mental illness in South Australia
Analysis of ‘stop the boats’ – Australia’s response to irregular boat arrivals
The impact of transferring lone parents from Parenting Payment to NewStart Allowance when their youngest child turns 8 years
Analysis of the impact of NAPLAN on education in Australia
Examination of policies to reduce teen pregnancies
Issues associated with labelling of packaged food
The UK Government’s Child poverty strategy, 2014-2017
The impact of removing fuel subsidies in Malaysia/Indonesia
Planning your assignment
You may find it helpful to organise your proposal as follows:

Title: You may find it helpful to write your title as a question that you propose to address. This helps orient the reader. For example, ‘Did the “Alcopops tax” reduce alcohol consumption among young adults in Australia, or was it the wrong solution?’ or ‘Has NAPLAN distorted the aims of education in Australia?’

Introduction: This should give a very brief overview of the purpose of your essay. It is useful also to give a rationale for your proposal – why is it important to study this particular policy? And how will your proposed study add to existing knowledge? (200-300 words)

Background: This could follow on from the rationale. You’ve stated why the issue is important, now here are the details. Provide a background briefing on the issue which highlights the historical and other contextual information needed to understand the case, including key actors and their roles, and main stages in the policy process. The person reading the proposal will not necessarily know anything about the issue in question, so explain clearly! Be sure to describe what the main focus of your analysis will be; for example, determination of the policy problem, processes of policy negotiation or implementation, development of performance indicators, or outcomes. (300 words)

Literature: You need to link the case to wider academic literature – what is known about this particular policy, and similar policies of interest in your jurisdiction or in other jurisdictions. As this is an academic exercise, particular importance should be given to theoretical frameworks that are used in investigation of this and similar policies, and where the gaps in knowledge are (your proposal will presumably aim to address one of these gaps). (400-500 words)

Method: Discuss the methods you use to conduct your analysis – theoretical frameworks, data or evidence, and analytical methods. Here you will have the opportunity to show how you might use positivist or post-positivist frameworks to address the issue at hand. Do not assume that the reader has prior knowledge about the theoretical frameworks that you use. You need to explain your theoretical framework and its relevance in the context of your particular policy analysis. (400-500 words)

Findings: This is where you present your analysis, and discuss your conclusions from it. Depending on your theoretical framework, these findings may come in the form of an evaluation of outcomes (eg did the policy achieve what it set out to do?), or an analysis of values inherent in how the policy is positioned or implemented (eg how is the public policy value of accountability operationalised in a particular policy?), or a critical analysis of how the problem is defined (eg what problem construction does the policy appear to address, and how might the problem be alternatively defined?). (700-800 words)

Conclusion: This is not a summary. It should discuss two issues in particular – weaknesses in the analysis (what it does not or cannot do) and proposals for further research (how other gaps in knowledge might be addressed). (100 words)

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