Now that you have articulated a policy problem to analyze, you need to begin assembling evidence by “reading documents, hunting in libraries, [and] poring over studies and statistics” (Bardach 2012, p. 11). According to Bardach (2012), the evidence that is collected should shed light on the scope of the problem, the “features” of the policy context, and to learn if best practices have been adopted elsewhere to deal with a similar problem. This exercise is designed to help you begin the process of collecting information so that you are able to clarify the features of the policy context in which your policy problem is embedded.
Your efforts should begin by canvassing the academic and professional literature relating to the policy problem that you are examining. A literature review is a summary of what has been written in the scholarly literature about a specific topic. There is no rule of thumb for determining the number of sources that you will examine for this exercise, although some scholars have argued that projects reporting on the work of others will require more sources, while projects that focus on your own analysis will require fewer sources (Johnson, et al. 2015).
Once you have downloaded and collected all of the books and articles that will allow you to review what is written about your policy problem, then you should begin summarizing that material in written form. It is important while you are summarizing and synthesizing the material that you write about it in your own words. Rather than referring to each article or book sequentially, it is better practice to integrate and group your sources on the basis of their common research questions, similar research designs, and/or the conclusions that are drawn by the authors.
For the first part of this exercise you should take notes on all of the readings that you have collected for your literature review. After doing so, try organizing your readings into two to three (or more) categories or groupings (e.g., common research questions, common findings, common methodologies). It is ok if you have some articles that do not fit into common groupings; that just means that the article or book contains insights that can be discussed aside from the other readings. Once you have identified these categories, develop a heading that coincides with that category and write a summary of the readings. Place the heading in bold font with the summary right below it. You should have 3-4 headings and summaries in the first part of this exercise.
In the second half of the exercise you should identify best practices that have been found elsewhere and that can be applied to address your policy problem. According to Bardach (2012), “[y]ou want to look for [best practices] that appear to have worked pretty well, try to understand exactly how and why they may have worked, and evaluate their applicability to your own situation” (p. 109). Use this part of your exercise to identify two to three examples of how other jurisdictions have addressed the policy problem that you are examining and use a paragraph to go into some detail about the jurisdiction’s experience with addressing the policy problem in this way. It may be possible that you are examining a
policy problem that has not yet been dealt with elsewhere. One way of dealing with this challenge is to identify how another jurisdiction dealt with a similar problem (e.g., perhaps opioid addiction can be dealt with in similar ways to how other jurisdictions have approached other drug addictions). You should devote two to three paragraphs from this exercise to best practices, with each paragraph coinciding with one of the best practices that you identified.
Your exercise should roughly use the following outline:
Paragraph 1 – A bold-faced heading, followed by a summary of literature on the basis of one of the themes that you have identified.
Paragraph 2 – A bold-faced heading, followed by a summary of literature on the basis of one of the themes that you have identified.
Paragraph 3 – A bold-faced heading, followed by a summary of literature on the basis of one of the themes that you have identified.
Between these paragraphs, include the following heading: Best Practices
Paragraph 4 – The identification of a best practice that has been adopted elsewhere and the circumstances surrounding the adoption of that other jurisdiction’s best practice.
Paragraph 5 – The identification of a best practice that has been adopted elsewhere and the circumstances surrounding the adoption of that other jurisdiction’s best practice.
Paragraph 6 – The identification of a best practice that has been adopted elsewhere and the circumstances surrounding the adoption of that other jurisdiction’s best practice.
If you are not able to identify three best practices, then you should try to compensate for that by adding another paragraph to your literature review. In all, you should turn in an exercise with six well-written paragraphs.
Formatting and Additional Requirements