Review of PS3271 – Public Policy Making

For other reviewed modules, check here.

(Alternate titles: PS3271 – Public Policy Making is pretty damn cool yo)


I hadn’t done a GPA (Governance and Public Administration) module yet but heard from some friends that Intro to PA was really dull, so I decided to take this module because I had been assured by the Prof that it required no pre-requisite knowledge in this subfield of political science. Also because I had taken modules under this Prof before and I was used to her style of teaching, so I looked forward to what this new world of PA would bring.

What I expected

I had honestly no idea what PA would be about, so I expected some process describing how public policy was made and that was about it.

What I got

A whole new worlddddddddddd!

A new fantastic point of view!

When I’m way up here, and it’s crystal clear

And now I see a whole new world with-


Anyway, yea. Basically it’s a whole new world one goes into, learning about the big four theories of how public policy is formulated and changes and who makes policy and how it’s executed. One goes through theories of policy formulation and change such as ACF, PE, MSM/F and IAD as well as their predecessors like Incrementalism, Garbage Can Model and Ruling Elite Model/Democratic Pluralism/Iron Triangle and stuff like that. Examples are also covered quite well to supplement one’s understanding of these theories, so it turns out that making policy is actually a lot more chaotic than one might imagine it to be.

[Webcasted?] Nope.

[Course Materials?] A small book titled ‘The Public Policy Theory Primer’ 2nd Edition by Kevin B. Smith and Christopher W. Larimer. Used quite regularly for readings so by the end of the course you’d have read at least 70% of it.

Assessment & Workload

One is assessed as follows:

  1. Tutorial Participation: 20%. 10% based on attendance, 10% based on participation, with it being mandatory that two questions for discussion are submitted to the tutor. Actual discussion is dependent on how effectively or interested one is in pushing their question out of the small group to the entire class discussion, so if you feel strongly about a question raise it up as a general class question. As usual, do the readings so you can participate in the tutorials or can ask more informed questions about the content covered.
  2. Research Paper: 40%. Similar in style to Prof. Han’s requirements for the other module I took under her, it’s a page limit based on 7 pages (+- about half a page). Includes footnotes but excludes footnotes so hop on the Chicago train! No questions are given, one is free to form any question they want and answer it – quite fun but might not be for those that prefer to answer to a set of questions.
  3. Finals: 40%. Also quite a heavy weightage, 6C3 Id questions at 10 marks each, 3C1 short essay for 30 marks each and 2C1 long essay for 40 marks each. Questions are quite manageable if one knows their content well and is prepared to take a side or analyze differences between theoretical frameworks.

Workload is moderately light to moderate: while readings and tutorial preparations should take about 1.5 to 2 hours on a weekly basis (or three hours over two weeks), one does need to either read ahead if they want to use a framework taught later in the course for their essay (if they’re starting on their essay early), or they will need to rush their essay if they wait for the regular lectures to get to the framework which they want to use. I took the former path, so expect a bit more work in the earlier portion if one does so and a slight ease up in the pressure once the essay has been completed.

Expected Grade

I was somewhat confident of my tutorial participation to be at least a B+ or an A-, but wasn’t sure whether my research paper’s A+ would translate to an A in the end. So I expected an A- but hoped for an A.

Actual Grade

Clearly competition in the finals was pretty tough because I didn’t get an A and dropped to an A-. Ah well, it’s better than nothing I guess.

Conclusion & Tips

A really interesting module for those looking to get involved in PA, both because of its foundational nature and also how clearly the lecturer teaches these concepts and frameworks. I’d say that this module has even made me feel that PA could be more interesting than IR/CP at times because of its methodical nature and diversity of thought, and that’s coming from someone that originally gravitated towards the IR/CP subfields. Also with a moderately-light workload, I’d recommend this module for those looking to balance out modules with heavier workload within a semester.

  1. Take the same path that I did for the essay: Draft a question early (because you can make your own question, you don’t need to wait for the questions to be released so you can start on your essay early and refine it as time goes on or write it once and well and just wait for finals to come while doing the usual weekly readings) and keep consulting and reading ahead for the necessary frameworks you’re planning to use in answering the question you’ve posed. I quite enjoyed being the person that had a full essay ready for submission when the Prof was collecting the essay outlines, and so I used the feedback for the essay outlines to better refine my essay before I checked it again and submitted it sometime in week 7 or 8 (I had completed it around week 5 or 6 after spending week 4 reading up on the necessary details and week 3 consulting for my proposed question). Given that workload’s lighter at the start of the sem, do your future self a favour and start work on this early so you can have an easier time later.
  2. Check with the Prof whether she is okay with narrative styles of writing: She tends to be okay if it also includes some analysis, but don’t fluff it up too much with description. You still need to make a point or argue for/prove a thesis after all, or to show the results of your research.
  3. For the finals, going back to read the notes one has made throughout the lectures and readings will help. Allocate sufficient time between the short and long essay questions: One requires a lot more planning and preparation than the other in outlining. Just keep this in mind and one should be fine for a B+.

No materials to preview unfortunately 😦

Here are my personal notes I’ve taken though ^^



3 thoughts on “Review of PS3271 – Public Policy Making

  1. Pingback: All module reviews up, an upcoming year and another milestone | Ramblings of Roe

  2. Pingback: Review of PS3238 – International Political Economy | Ramblings of Roe

  3. Pingback: Review of SW1101E – A Heart-Head-Hand Connection | Ramblings of Roe

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