Contemporary Public Policy: Theoretical Perspectives
number of words 2500
Choose ONE of the following questions:
- Is the idea of ‘nudging’ in public policy as outlined by Thaler and Sunstein a desirable response to the limits of rational decision making by individuals,
or is it really an insidious form of paternalism?
- Critically assess the arguments about human development associated with
the capability view addressing, in particular, the implications of capability ideas for public policy.
- What relevance do ideas of social capital have for contemporary public
policy? In answering this question, address in particular the main policy implications of the different types of social capital – bonding, bridging and linking.
- Critically assess the theoretical and practical debates about stakeholding, focussing either on the basic income or asset aspects. Address the issues in the context of a particular society of your choice.
- Examine and assess quality of government principles for public policy reform and practice in a society of your choice.
ESSAY WRITING ADVICE
Basics. Your essay should be typed in a clear 12-point font, double-spaced, and with a wide margin on at least one side for comments. Pages must be numbered. Any divergence from these simple basics will lose marks.
Answer the question. You must answer the question asked, not merely write down some things more or less to do with the broad subject-area. You should therefore read the question very carefully to make sure you know what it’s asking. If the question can be interpreted in more than one way, make it clear what you are taking it to mean. Feel free to ‘attack’ the question, i.e. to point out any ambiguities or questionable assumptions it contains. Announce (in outline) what your answer is going to be straight away, i.e. in your introductory paragraph. This is your thesis statement, and I shall expect every essay to begin in this way. It tells me where you’re supposed to be going, and it helps you to stick to the point. See ‘Structure: Introduction’, below.
Define key terms. The meaning of the key terms in your question – words like ‘liberty’, ‘justice’, ‘equality’, ‘democracy’ – will be controversial. You will need to say what you understand by them, and perhaps set out two or more rival interpretations, in order to answer your question well.
Make a case. Your goal is to give a clear answer to the question, and to back up your answer with persuasive reasons, i.e. to construct a good argument. Try to take a clear stand, don’t fudge. In support of your view, present a sequence of reasons leading to a conclusion, not just a few disconnected considerations.
Balance. Your case should be ‘balanced’. This does not mean that you should sit on the fence. It means that your case should not be merely one-sided, considering only the evidence and arguments in favour of your own point of view, but rather should take into account opposing arguments, both actual and possible. Try to imagine what someone would say who wanted to argue with you. State the opposing view in its best version (not just a straw man), and reply to it. This will strengthen rather than weaken your position: your case will be stronger if you can take on the opposition at its best and still show how your view is better.
Research. You will need to do some research beyond the required readings. But two points. First, to show that you’ve done this it’s not enough just to produce a bibliography; you must integrate the contents of the bibliography into your argument. If a work isn’t really part of your argument, then it hasn’t really contributed to your case and shouldn’t be in the bibliography. Secondly, don’t get carried away with research to the point that your whole essay is a list of other people’s views. Don’t let your research drive your writing; rather, your research should be the servant of your argument, stimulating and illustrating your own ideas.
Introduction. Every essay should have an introductory paragraph, which should make it clear which question you’re answering, and which should contain, I repeat, a concise thesis statement (see above), i.e. a statement of roughly what your answer to the question is going to be, what you’re going to prove. Essays without a thesis statement in the introduction will lose marks.
Development. Demonstrate your thesis in a sequence of distinct steps, signalled by paragraphing. Stick to the point, don’t stray off into matters you might happen to know about, or want to discuss, but which don’t bear on the question, or don’t help you answer it.
Quoting. You should quote and use references to illustrate and back up your own explanations and arguments, not as substitutes for these. If you quote, always explain the meaning and significance of the quote in your own words. Do not quote or refer to lectures – they are informal guides to reading, not scholarly sources. You may cite sources from the internet, but don’t rely on these alone because internet material is extremely uneven in quality.
Conclusion. Reach as clear and strong a conclusion as you can, taking into account the matter of ‘balance’ mentioned above. Don’t just tell me the matter is ‘interesting’ and that people will continue to discuss it.
References and bibliography. You must provide references for your quotations. Your references should be completely accurate (I may follow them up). I don’t mind what system you use, as long as it’s clear and used consistently, but I recommend either the Harvard system or the ‘numerical’ system that is described in the University’s handbook for students, Making the Grade. References to internet or electronic database sources should also take a standard form, which, again, is set out in Making the Grade. All your references should be gathered in a Bibliography at the end of the essay (which should contain only references used in the essay.
Proofreading. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Spelling, punctuation etc. are graded as well as content. You must check your work for errors of presentation. In addition, it’s a big help to get someone else to read it over, since it’s amazing what you miss on your own.
Breach of academic integrity. Breaches of academic conventions such as passing off other people’s work as your own are serious matters, and will be dealt with strictly according to the University’s ‘Policies and Procedures’ (see Statement of Assessment Methods below). Please see me if you are in doubt about what counts as such a breach.
Word limit. Excludes references and Bibliography
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