University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Comparative Analysis of Social and Public Policy (PGSP11104)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course introduces students to the main methodological approaches in comparative policy analysis. Its aims are to give students an understanding of key issues involved in comparative social research and to develop their analytical skills in systematic comparison that may add rigour to their research and help achieve valid and well-founded generalizations and evaluations of social and public policy developments in national and international context.
Course description 1. Course description

a. Academic description

The course introduces students to main methodological approaches in comparative policy analysis. Its aims to give students an understanding of key issues involved in comparative policy research and to develop their analytical skills in systematic cross-national comparison. We reflect on the role of comparisons in policy debates and critically discuss empirical indicators which are used to create country rankings and league tables. We contrast ideal types with the creation of typologies, and consider the need for categorization and concepts which are able to ¿travel¿ across countries. A session on the ¿logic of comparative inquiry¿ reflects on different designs and aspects of case selection in studies which are based on the comparative method. We introduce and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative methods in cross-national research. Finally we explore the relevance of historical comparisons and reflect on ways in which single-country and single case studies may be valuable for comparative analysis.

b. Outline content

1. Introduction
This session takes a look at comparisons in the social sciences generally and policy related social science in particular. In the second part of the first session we consider the potential of comparing with and learning lessons from other polities? We consider the pitfalls of attempting to transfer policy from one context to another and why transfer might seem like an attractive option (or label) to policy makers.

2. Country ranking and league tables
How can empirical indicators be constructed and subsequently used for cross-country comparisons? This session will explore how policy indicators might be constructed for use in compiling descriptions of ¿policy packages¿. It will also take a look at the way country rankings and league tables are put to use in the policy arena.

3. Typologies
What is an ideal type? What is a typology? When and why might typologies be used in social science? What techniques can we use to construct and test typologies?

4. Concepts and comparisons
After outlining the various functions of concepts in comparative research, we discuss a number of common pitfalls that comparative research faces when it does not pay adequate attention to issues of conceptualisation, as well as some strategies that can be used to avoid these.

5. The logic of comparative enquiry
What is the logic of comparison as a method? We will discuss Mill's methods of difference and agreement; necessary and sufficient conditions, as well as the issue of causality in comparative social research more generally.

6. Quantitative data and statistical methods
We contrast macrosocial and micro-social data, within-country analysis and cross-country comparisons. We reflect on regression analysis with small and large samples and associated problems/opportunities as well as the question of validity in cross-country comparisons and how one might investigate cross-cultural comparability using statistical techniques.

7. Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)
This session discusses QCA and Fuzzy Set Analysis (fsQCA) as particular methods of comparative investigation. The latter is a formalised approach which is particularly useful when studying a small to medium number of cases. The underlying logic of QCA will be presented and its basic assumptions will be compared with that of quantitative analytical techniques.

8. Single country and case study research
Can we compare countries by looking at one country alone? The session considers the various possible rationales for a single-country study, and looks at the different ways that such single-country analysis might contribute to a cross-national comparative research programme.

9. Historical comparisons
The session focuses on the value of historical studies in understanding contemporary developments in policy. The challenges of producing robust historical analyses are considered against the benefits that such work might produce, including a greater sensitivity to continuity and the development of complex causal analyses.

10. Conclusion
In the final session we look back over the course as a whole, discuss the coursework set and possible plans for comparative analyses in further student work such as dissertations.

c. Student Learning experience

The course consists of 10 two-hour weekly sessions. From week 2 onwards, sessions will be divided in class discussions (part A) and a lecture input (part B). Students are expected to have read and prepared the readings for part A prior to each week. In some sessions students will discuss the required reading in small groups prior to class discussions.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  45
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 4,000 word essay chosen from the topic list supplied. Alternatively write an essay on a topic of your own choice that relates to the issues discussed in the course. Please note, if you select your own topic you need agreement from the course convener.
Feedback Students who are unsure about how to write essays may want to submit a voluntary ¿formative¿ non-assessed essay of max 1500 words on the topic which is to be submitted to the course organizer by the end of week 3. Feedback will be provided by week 6. The essay will not be marked and is not part of the grade achieved for the course.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. have a good understanding of the role of theory and modelling in comparative analysis
  2. have a good knowledge about data sources and their limitations [including web-based sources]
  3. be able to appreciate comparative methods and problems of inference from data
  4. have explored aspects involved in policy learning and policy transfer
  5. engaged with substantive issues in comparative policy analysis
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information Mode of delivery
The course will run as a series of ten two-hour weekly lecture and seminar sessions. Each week, students will learn a different aspect of comparative method, aided by group discussion based on one or two selected texts. Students are expected to have read and prepared these readings prior to each session. The final session will be organised as a panel where staff members discuss their comparative approaches and practical experiences with conducting empirical comparative research.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Daniel Clegg
Course secretaryMrs Gillian Macdonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 3244
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information
© Copyright 2016 The University of Edinburgh - 3 February 2017 4:59 am