Public Policy: Theories, Traditions and Transitions

Course Description: 

The course provides an introduction to the concepts, theories and debates at the core of public policy as a field of scholarly inquiry. The course is designed to prepare the students for their dissertation research, and therefore provides for a broad discussion of public policy analysis that draws on insights and theories from political science, international relations, economics, law and sociology.

The main objective of this course is to develop an advanced understanding of major debates in contemporary public policy, theoretical approaches to the study of public policy as well as diverse methodological opportunities of researching various aspects of public policy-making. The concern is to identify and analyze (a), major strands and traditions of public policy scholarship; (b) core concepts in policy analysis; (c) major methodological perspectives, debates and logics of research inquiry used for academic research on public policy; and (d) explanatory capacity of existing theoretical tools.

Particular attention is paid to the state-of-the-art in public policy research and practice. This is done through, for instance, including discussions from social constructivism and argumentative and interpretive research, and by including practical sessions helping to prepare participants for their future career as professional researchers.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • identify the major theoretical debates in contemporary policy studies;
  • contrast and compare existing research on public policy, discuss theoretical traditions and frameworks and critically engage with their arguments;
  • interpret and judge different methodological strategies used in public policy research, and evaluate their core assumptions as well as their heuristic and explanatory potentials;
  • evaluate the relevance of existing frameworks and approaches for their own work;
  • have an understanding of the major challenges and requirements of doing advanced research professionally in an academic or practical context. 


Participation 15%
Session presentation 10%
Session presentation and moderation 20%   
Peer review 15%
Final paper (4000 words) 40%