Atlas101 Policy Analysis and Process

… one of the core Atlas Courses

StudyOfPolicyAtlas course syllabus

This course covers the concepts and techniques of policy analysis and processes associated with policy making.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course students will have the skills and knowledge to utilize the concepts enumerated below and be able to understand and describe the theories and principles in the normed topics below.

Normed topics

The topics are normed in having a volume of content capable of being taught in one course-week of instruction − nominally 3 hours of in-class work and 7 hours of outside-class reading.

  1. The Study of Policy Analysis and Process
  2. Interests and the Policy Process
  3. Institutions and the Policy Process
  4. Ideas and the Policy Process
  5. Problem Definition and Agenda Setting
  6. Policy Instruments and Design
  7. Models of Decision Making
  8. Evidence and Decision Making
  9. Implementation and the Policy Cycle
  10. Evaluation and the Policy Cycle
  11. Policy Communication
  12. Policy Communities and Networks

Like other normed topics on the Atlas, each of these has a topic description, links to core concepts relevant to the topic, learning outcomes, a reading list drawn from available course syllabi, and a series of assessment questions.

Core concepts
The Study of Policy Analysis and Process

Policy Analysis

Policy Design

Public Policy


Policy Consistency

Lasswell’s Policy Sciences

Pal’s Elements of Policy Content

Positive (or Descriptive) vs. Normative

Positivism vs. Post-positivism (and Constructivism)

Pal’s Types of Reasoning in Policy Analysis

Policy Analysis’s Impact on Policymaking

Policy Capacity

Interests and the Policy Process


Interest Group

Endowment Effect

Pal’s Glossary of Conceptualizing Interests in Policymaking

Elite Theory


Institutions and the Policy Process

Homo Economicus

Social Norms

Policy Feedback

Ideas and the Policy Process

The Role of Ideas in Policymaking

Contradictions of Liberal Democracy


Political Left

Political Right

Problem Definition and Agenda Setting

Pal’s Aspects of Problem Definition

Issue Framing

Policy Crises, Policy Entrepreneurs, and Political Entrepreneurs

Focusing Event

Path Dependence

Policy Images

Policy Window

Supply and Demand for Policy Analysis

Political (Party) Platform

Political Business Cycle

Agenda Setting and Media Bias

Convergence Theory

Policy Instruments and Design

Typologies of Policy Instruments

Pal’s Classification of Policy Instruments

Policy Design and Social Values

Models of Decision Making

Rational Decision Making Model

Satisficing Behaviour

Lindblom’s Incrementalism and Muddling Through

Maximizing Behaviour

Bounded Rationality


Behavioural Economics

Libertarian Paternalism

Postmodernist Critiques of Rational Decision Making


Evidence and Decision Making
Implementation and the Policy Cycle
Evaluation and the Policy Cycle

Formative Evaluation

Judicial Evaluation Model

Broken Windows Theory

Policy Communication


Policy Argument

Policy Images

Policy Paradigm

Pal’s Comparison of Academic and Policy Research

Symbolic Representation and Narrative

Dunn’s Four-stage Process of Communicating Policy-relevant Knowledge

Cognitive Dissonance


Deep Core Beliefs

Postmodernist Policy Analysis

Policy Communities and Networks

Policy Community

Policy Networks

Advocacy Coalitions

Network Targets

Courses reviewed for topics and readings

University of Toronto: PPPG-1001; Carleton University: PADM-5116; Saskatchewan and Regina: JSGS-801; NYU Wagner: CORE-GP.1022; George Washington: PPA-6006; American: PUAD-612

Recommended readings


Page created by: Ian Clark, last updated 30 November 2019.

Image: LookForDiagnosis, at, accessed 13 March 2016.