Spring 2020 - 58310 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
Writing for GPS
This course aims to develop the written and oral communication skills necessary for policy professionals by focusing on the various genres of writing that LBJ School graduates may be called upon to produce. The class is built around weekly writing assignments that allow students to try their hand at drafting specific types of policy documents, to which the instructor and the teaching assistant will offer substantial and personalized constructive criticism.
We begin by exploring—and putting into practice—some fundamental principles of good writing: clarity, conciseness, persuasiveness, audience awareness, etc. These first few weeks also serve to inculcate good habits of peer review, which students will be required to engage in throughout the course. The class then turns to the challenges of communicating within policy organizations, drafting various types of internal documents about the same international subject, looking to US government agencies for some basic memo types. Finally, we confront the difficulties of advocacy: when communicating policy “toward the outside,” how can one effectively explain complex policy questions to the public, to the media, and to non-experts?
The reading load is fairly light, but students are expected to spend substantial amounts of time drafting, re-drafting, editing, re-editing, polishing, and re-polishing their writing assignments. Although we may touch upon some recurring grammar problems, this is not a remedial course. Its aim is to ensure that students understand and apply basic principles of policy-oriented composition and style. Some assignments need to be completed during class time, to mimic the time pressure frequently faced by policy professionals. Throughout the semester, we also engage in in-class exercises to work on oral communication and presentation skills.
All readings will be posted to the course’s Canvas site, except the following book, which you should purchase online. Note that you will need to have acquired and read this book by the first day of class!
William Strunk Jr. & E. B. White: The Elements of Style, 4th Edition, Longman Press, New York, 2000.
Grading will be based on the weekly assignments you submit (75%), peer reviews (10%) and class participation (15%).