PubPol 301: Political Analysis for Public Policy-Making

Reader requirements: significant professional experience writing and reading policy memos.

  1. Course Information
  2. Schedule
  3. Giving Feedback

Course Information

Instructor: Prof. Nicholas Carnes and Prof. Ken Rogerson

Most of your training at the Sanford School will focus on how to identify problems and how to design effective, efficient, and ethical policies to solve them. However, if you cannot persuade politicians to adopt and implement your well-designed policies, you will have little to show for your hard work. The purpose of this course is to make you a better political analyst. PubPol 301 will familiarize you with research on U.S. politics that has concrete insights for reformers, political advocates, and other public policy stakeholders.

Student Writing Assignment

What are students writing? Several policy memos (two to three pages each).
For whom? Legislators, interest groups, other political stakeholders.
Where would such writing typically be found? A policy memo submitted to an interest group concerned about a particular economic constituency.
Why would someone usually read it? Legislators, policy advocates, and other political stakeholders often want hard data to inform their choices. When they need straightforward, reliable information about problems, possible solutions, and obstacles to implementation, they often turn to expert policy memos for guidance.

Examples of readers


Student – Reader Interactions

Intro Meeting: Schedule within one week of receiving partner’s contact information.


Memos should all focus on a single problem or issue that you care deeply about.

Students will send their reader a memo when they turn in rough draft (the Friday before the final draft is due), have a face-to-face or phone meeting with the reader (by Wednesday), write down a 200- to 300-word summary of the reader’s comments, revise the memo, and submit the memo and summary on the due date (the following Friday).

Students will send two of their memos to their readers to get feedback. Group 1 will send the memos for Unit 1 and Unit 4. Group 2 will send memos for Unit 2 and Unit 5.

Unit 1: A Legislative History

Rough Draft: 9/18      Final Draft: 9/25
-a two-page legislative history describing the key stakeholders and events surrounding a piece of federal legislation (enacted, failed, or pending) that you think is important
Unit 1 Memo Example

Unit 2: A Media Strategy

Rough Draft: 10/1      Final Draft: 10/9
-a strategy for getting an issue onto the political agenda, including an engaging op-ed (<750 words) that will convince your readers to take the issue seriously
Unit 2 Memo Example

(no Memo for Unit 3)

Unit 4: A Legislator Profile

Rough Draft: 11/6       Final Draft: 11/13
-a summary of a legislator’s stated position on an issue, any bills the legislator has recently voted on or introduced, the legislator’s relationship with groups that lobby on the issue, and an assessment of whether the legislator can be persuaded to support your side
Unit 4 Memo Example

Unit 5: An Agency Profile

Rough Draft: 11/20       Final Draft: 11/25
-a summary of an executive agency’s recent rules on a given issue, the general ideological makeup and of the agency, and an assessment of how the agency might make rules on that issue in the future
Unit 5 Memo Example

PubPol 301 – Syllabus

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More

Instructor’s response questions:

  • Does the student address every aspect of the prompt?
  • Do they cite appropriate evidence?
  • Is the writing clear and graceful?

Example Reader Feedback:

PubPol 301 Memo response, email