Elements of Policy Analysis (Law 7846)

This one-credit course supports students undertaking public policy analysis projects in the Policy Lab and in other policy-based courses. The course helps students gain facility with basic policy methods and approaches common to Policy Lab practicums. The core session of the course consists of six hours of classroom instruction on a (typically the Saturday at the end of the first week of classes). The morning session emphasizes thinking like a policy analyst (as distinguished from an advocate or lawyer), scoping policy problems, promoting and assessing evidence quality, and making valid (and avoiding invalid) inferences. Students apply learning in a team-based simulation exercise on a topical policy issue.

The afternoon session introduces strategies for social change, including designing and evaluating programs that improve individual lives. The immersive exercise typically focuses on developing and evaluating a program to reduce childhood obesity.

The course then offers a series of short workshops:

  1. interviewing policy clients and other stakeholders (especially where ethnic and cultural differences may be salient),
  2. policy research tools and strategies,
  3. design thinking for law and policy,
  4. systems thinking,
  5. designing dispute systems, and
  6. policy writing.

Students should attend at least three of the six workshops to receive credit for the course.

With guidance from their faculty instructors, students may then draw on the skills developed in this introductory seminar to analyze a public policy problem, develop potential strategies to address it, weigh the pros and cons of strategy options, and produce a final product that may offer options or recommendations to a policy client, suggestions for implementing such recommendations, and techniques to assess the effectiveness of implementation.

Note that the students who enroll in a Policy Lab practicum for the first time are asked to participate in the full-day methods bootcamp whether or not they undertake Elements of Policy Analysis for course credit.

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Paul Brest

Paul Brest

  • Interim Dean
  • Professor of Law, Emeritus
  • Director of Law and Policy Lab
  • Interim Executive Director, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance

Policy Lab Quarterly Launch & Bootcamp

The methods bootcamp and skills workshops associated with Elements of Policy Analysis are open to the entire Stanford community. You do not have to be formally registered for the class. If you would like to join a workshop, please visit the Events page for details and to RSVP.