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PST 3010 Policy Analysis

Professor Dillan Bono-Lunn

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Guide to Political Science and Policy Studies Research

Library Assignment

PST 301 Policy Analysis

Annotated Bibliography/Library Assignment

Goals for this assignment:

  • Develop search strategies for finding resources in the library catalog and in library databases such as JSTOR, ProQuest Central, and ERIC.
  • Identify opposing viewpoints on an important public policy issue & describe how the viewpoints are developed
  • Evaluate the arguments and evidence of scholarly and non-scholarly information sources on key public policy issues.
  • Provide appropriate attribution for the work of others using the APA Style Guide.

For some additional guidance on finding and using sources, please refer to the Library Guide (link on Moodle) and The Craft of Research Ch. 4 and 6 (pdfs on Moodle).

What you will submit:

  • A 1-2 paragraph problem definition for the policy problem you have chosen to address.

You should have selected a problem that falls within the broad categories:

    • Education Policy
    • Energy/Environmental Policy
    • Health Policy
    • Labor Policy
    • Other Social Policy (e.g., criminal justice, housing, transportation, urban development, social protection, etc.)

You should select a narrow topic within the broad topic. In this 1-2 paragraph assignment, think about how to define the problem, identify the causes, the scope, and the current policy context. Begin to use some evidence to support or describe the problem. This assignment does not need to identify stakeholders or justify a role for government (but you will of course include this in Policy Brief #1) and should not discuss alternatives, criteria, or provide a recommendation. It does not need to be a final version either. But it does need to identify where you are going with your policy problem so far. I will provide you with feedback on this preliminary problem definition.

  • An annotated bibliography containing four peer-reviewed articles/ books and four non- peer-reviewed sources on an issue related to your topic area. For each source, include 1 paragraph summarizing and evaluating your findings.

Task 1. Find and annotate four peer-reviewed articles

Within your broad topic, identify one important issue that has produced different interpretations.

For example, if you are examining decreasing health care costs as your topic, you might find published works that talk about different policy options for reducing health care costs. For instance, some articles might argue that the introduction of new technology has led to a decrease in health care costs. Another article might argue that the introduction of new technology has led to an increase in health care costs.

Find and annotate four scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles on your topic. For the purposes of this exercise, you may consider books as peer-reviewed as well. These articles/books should provide at least two different perspectives on your issue. Each annotation should be 4 to 5 sentences (approximately 100 words). For the structure of the annotations, please see the last page of this assignment.

Task 2. Find and annotate four articles from non-peer-reviewed sources: think tanks, policy institutes, government sources, etc.

Using the same topic that was used for Task 1, find information sources that produce non peer- reviewed information. For the purposes of this assignment, non peer-reviewed sources include content that is created by the following organizations: think tanks, non-profit organizations, policy institutes, interest groups, and associations.

These organizations engage in public policy analysis and research, and often advocate solutions. Some organizations research policy issues without regard to political outcomes, while others see one of their main functions as that of providing intellectual support to politicians, parties and viewpoints.

Many of these organizations publish research reports on their websites. While these can be a valuable source of information, you should realize that many organizations have a political agenda. It's important to be aware of any biases that might exist and whether they have specific ideological viewpoints. Some organizations make it clear what their underlying philosophy is either in the very title of the organization or through an "About Us" section or a "Mission Statement."

Here are some tips on evaluating information from think tanks, policy institutes, etc.:

  • Investigate the group's mandate: see their website for more information.
  • Skim the titles in their publications list: the list may show many titles from the same ideological viewpoint.
  • Read the information describing the organization on their website: this should include how the group is funded and by whom. Note that some groups may get special funding, or be contracted by government or others to carry out specific research projects. This should be stated in the publication reporting on that research.

Find and annotate four non-peer reviewed articles on your topic. Again, these articles should provide at least two different perspectives on your issue. Each annotation should be a short paragraph (3-5 sentences). For the structure of the annotations, please see below.

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography contains the following elements:

Bibliography according to the appropriate citation style (in our case: APA style).


^ The above link *hopefully* works. If it doesn't Google "Purdue OWL APA," and it's the first source to come up!

Explanations of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understood the source.

  1. Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  2. Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
  3. The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.


Examples of an Annotated Article:

Adams, Kelly M., Martin Kohlmeier, and Steven H. Zeisel. 2010. “Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools: Latest Update of a National Survey.” Academic Medicine 85 (9): 1537–1542.

This article summarizes a study done at UNC about the current status of nutritional education in medical schools. It provides useful background about the current policy climate, and concrete statistics that will be useful for quantifying the problem. It concludes that the level of nutrition education in medical schools is inadequate, which supports my framing of the policy problem. It was based on a national survey and written concisely and objectively, and the main thing that will be useful is the concrete data and statistics it provides.

Hewitt, Maria. “Facilitating State Health Exchange Communication Through the Use of Health Literate Practices: Workshop Summary.” Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Washington DC, 2012.

This summary of the Board of Population Health Workshop concerning health literate practices focuses specifically on how to make the new State Health Exchanges more effective at educating consumers. Ms. Hewitt is reporting from a governmental body that regularly works with issues of health education. The source offers insight into potential alternatives for improving the effectiveness of the State Health Exchanges that will be established under PPACA. This work attempts to summarize policy discussions for other policy makers.