Spring 2022 - 59355 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Writing for Global Policy Studies-WB


 Instructor: Rachel Hoff 


Office hours: TBD 

All Office Hours are U.S. Central Time and held via Zoom 

Grader: TBD 

Email address TBD 

Office Hours: TBD 

All Office Hours are US Central Time and held via Zoom 

Course Description 

This course, a requirement for all students pursuing the Master of Global Policy Studies degree, 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 assignments that allow students to try their hand at specific types of policy documents and briefing styles, 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, and audience awareness. These first few weeks also serve to inculcate good habits of peer review, in which students will be required to engage throughout the course. The class then turns to the challenges of communicating within organizations, drafting various types of internal documents about the same international subject, with the aims of informing, analyzing, and recommending policy. This section asks students to produce mock memos and briefings as used in US government agencies. Finally, we confront the difficulties of advocacy: how can one effectively explain complex policy questions to the public, to the media, and to non-experts? Students pick their Page 2 of 7 


own non-governmental organization to represent, producing documents that frame problems, suggest solutions, and actively advocate for policy changes. 

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 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. 

Assignments, Readings, Participation, and Grading 

Students in this course will write or record a short assignment each week. All assignments must be submitted on the course Canvas site. The due dates and times are listed below. Drafts of all assignments are usually due by midnight on the Sunday before class. Each student’s assigned peer reviewer then comments on their draft, providing them with feedback before midnight on Monday. Students can then continue to edit and polish their assignment before submitting it at the beginning of class on Wednesday. Students should upload written assignments in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx) so that we can use the “track changes” feature to comment on student work. We strive to return all assignments no later than four days after submission. 

All readings are posted to the course’s Canvas site, except the following book, which students should purchase online. Note that students need to acquire and read this book by the second class meeting. 

• William Strunk Jr. & E. B. White: The Elements of Style, 4th Edition, Longman Press, 2000. 


Grading is based on the assignments students submit (80%), peer reviews (10%) and class participation (10%). There are twelve graded assignments (all graded on a 10-point scale and carrying equal weight) and three rewrites in this course. Each rewrite gives students a chance at improving a previous assignment: we grade the rewrite and average the two grades. For meaningful peer reviews, assignments must be turned in on time. Assignments are penalized one full point for being late. Those turned in more than 24 hours after the deadline are marked down by two points, those over 48 hours by 3 points. Assignments that are more than three days late will not be accepted, and will receive a grade of zero. On two unannounced occasions, students will be graded on the quality of their peer review feedback—also on a 10-point scale. 

Participation grades (evaluated on a 10-point scale) depend on both quantity and quality of participation, including the effort and goodwill students put into the exercises in class. As outlined above, students are each allowed one “freebie” absence. Any further unexcused absences reduce a student’s participation grade by 10%. 

Final grades will be assigned based on the following scale: A: >94; A-: 90-93; B+: 87-89; B: 84-86; B-: 80-83; C+: 77-79; C: 74-76; C-: 70-73. [NOTE: According to Graduate School rules, a student must earn at least a C—i.e. at least 74/100—in order to pass the course.] 

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