Pal’s Types of Reasoning in Policy Analysis

… a core concept used in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101

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Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) describes the four types of reasoning in policy analysis:

  • Normative: analyzes policy in reference to basic values or ethical principles
  • Legal: analyzes policy in terms of jurisdiction and consistency with legislation or the Charter
  • Logical: analyzes policy in terms of internal, vertical, and horizontal consistency and whether it “makes sense”
  • Empirical: analyzes policy in relation to impacts and effects, costs, and administration.

Pal writes (pages 18-19):

“It is important not to paint too rigid a picture of policy analysis. Taking the two elements of the definition – (1) the disciplined application of intellect and (2) public problems – it is easy to see that if we break each one down into its possible elements, there is a wide variety of possibilities and permutations that might come under the broad rubric of policy analysis. … While policy analysis … is a recognized occupational category in government, the work done by policy analysts is not narrowly technical. The “disciplined application of intellect” is really about styles of reasoning, as long as these styles are disciplined and systematic in some recognizable sense. These styles of reasoning are applied to “public problems,” but these also have various dimensions: process, content, and outcome, to name only a few. As Figure 1.3 shows, one can reason about (or analyze) policy in several equally legitimate ways: normative, legal, logical, and empirical. The figure also highlights some of the dimensions of policy that can be analyzed: process (the various determinants of a policy, the actors and institutions that shaped it), content (problem definition, goals, instruments), and outcomes (legislation, regulations, actual impact or effect).”

See also: Policy Analysis

Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of Policy Analysis and Process (core topic) in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 18 March 2017.

Image: Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, page 19, Nelson Education, Toronto.