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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Policy Work (PGSP11438)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits15 ECTS Credits7.5
SummaryWhat does policy consist of? What do policy makers do when they are making policy? What is 'policy work' and how is it done? This course seeks to explore the microsociology of the policy process, drawing on a range of perspectives from different disciplines.

The course is organized in three sections, with varying emphases on actors, actions and artefacts. A first section focuses on what we might take core activities of engagement or activism, administration and representation in turn. It establishes a sense of politics as people doing things, as something carried on between men and women with first and last names. It takes the boundaries of politics to be those not of the territory, but of the room and the street; it begins to study politics from the inside out. The second section is based on the recognition that political life is essentially word-based, and turns on talk in meetings and on the production and circulation of documents and texts. A third section, in turn, explores its irreducible materiality, investigating the way politics is embedded in artefacts and instuments, machines and technologies, buildings, spaces and human bodies.

A skills strand is woven across these substantive elements, introducing students to the basic research methods of documentary analysis, interview and observation and requiring them to craft case studies their own.

In these ways, the course aims to capture policy making in some of its essential social forms. It makes no a priori distinction between the local, the national and the international, or between the disciplines that might be used to understand them. Its intellectual roots are diverse: it draws not only on practice theory but on a range of other approaches across the social sciences.
Course description The aim of this course is to equip MPP students to think about policy making as a form of ¿work¿ or ¿practice¿. There are two related dimensions to the course. The first is substantive, about the contexts, activities and artefacts ¿ the people and things ¿ that are entailed in making policy happen. The second is methodological and conceptual, about how we know policy work, how we make it available for interrogation and reflection. This complements (and sometimes challenges) more abstract approaches to policy and politics, and is essential for MPP students working at the intersection of theory and practice.

The course is designed in two phases: it begins in collaborative learning through secondary material, in the close discussion of academic case studies, and shades into individual learning as students research and write cases of their own.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 150 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 3, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 147 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed by a 4 000 word course paper. This will comprise a case study of some element or aspect of 'policy work', and will be derived from empirical investigation by documentary, interview or observational methods. It will provide relevant background and context, draw on secondary literature as appropriate, and offer critical reflection, analysis and discussion. A typical case study might be based on an interview with a practitioner, observation of a meeting or event or the analysis of documents and material artefacts. The design and development of individual projects is integrated into teaching throughout the course.
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. articulate a critical understanding of politics and policy making as a domain of practice or 'work';
  2. offer appropriate ways of interpreting and accounting for it through the critical appreciation of case studies;
  3. use essential skills of data collection and analysis in researching and writing case studies of their own;
  4. reflect critically on their own and others' work, in analyzing cmaking project presentations.
Reading List
Barnett, M N (1997) 'The UN Security Council, Indifference, and Genocide in Rwanda', Cultural Anthropology 12 (4) 551-578
Black, J (2002) 'Regulatory conversations', Journal of Law and Society 29 (1) 163-196
Cambrosio, A, Limoges, C and Pronovost, D (1990) 'Representing biotechnology: an ethnography of Quebec science policy', Social Studies of Science 20 (2) 195-227
Coles, K A (2004) 'Election day: the construction of democracy through technique', Cultural Anthropology 19 (4) 551¿580
Escobar, O (2014): 'Scripting deliberative policy-making: dramaturgic policy, analysis and engagement know-how', Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice
Gavin, W F (2001) 'His Heart's Abundance: notes of a Nixon Speechwriter', Presidential Studies Quarterly 31 (2) 358-368
Healey, P (1992) 'A planner's day: knowledge and action in communicative practice', Journal of the American Planning Association 58 (1) 9-20
Hendriks, F and Tops, P (2005) 'Everyday fixers as local heroes: a case study of vital interaction in urban governance', Local Government Studies 31 (4) 475-490
Llewellyn, N (2005) 'Audience participation in political discourse: a study of public meetings', Sociology 39 (4) 697-716
Neumann, I B (2005) 'To be a diplomat', International Studies Perspectives 6 72¿93
Nullmeier, F and Pritzlaff, T (2009) 'The implicit normativity of political practices: analyzing the dynamics and power relations of committee decision-making', Critical Policy Studies 3 (3-4) 357¿374
Wagenaar, H (2004) ''Knowing' the rules: administrative work as practice', Public Administration Review 64 (6) 643¿656
Wedeen, L (2007) 'The politics of deliberation: qa¯t chews as public spheres in Yemen', Public Culture 19 (1) 59-84


Borreca, A (1993) 'Political Dramaturgy: a dramaturg's (re)view', TDR 37 (2) 56-79
Clarke, J (2012) 'The work of governing', in Coulter, K and Schumann, W R (eds) Governing Cultures: anthropological perspectives on political labor, power and government, New York: Palgrave
Colebatch, H K (2006) 'What work makes policy?', Policy Sciences 39 (4) 309-321
Freeman, R, Griggs, S and Boaz, A (2011) 'The practice of policy making', Evidence and Policy 7 (2) 127-136
Freeman, R and Maybin, J (2011) 'Documents, practices and policy', Evidence and Policy 7 (2) 155-170


Dargie, C (1998) 'Observation in political research: a qualitative approach', Politics 18 (1) 65-71
Gilliat-Ray, S (2011) ¿"Being there": the experience of shadowing a British Muslim Hospital chaplain', Qualitative Research 11 (5) 469¿486
Richards, D (1996) 'Elite interviewing: approaches and pitfalls', Politics 16 (3) 199-204
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Analytic and interpretive skills: this course will enable students to reflect on their own and others' practice in real-world policy settings;
- Methodological skills relevant to case-based investigation;
- Research skills, emphasising interview, observation and documentary analysis;
- Communication skills, acquired through discussion, writing and presentation.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Richard Freeman
Tel: (0131 6)50 4680
Course secretaryMr Lee Corcoran
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