This is a substantially revised edition of Methods for Policy Research, originally published in 1984. This book reframes policy research as responsible and evidence-based decision making. It describes how to define policy research questions so that evidence can be applied to them, how to find and synthesize existing evidence, how to generate new evidence if needed, how to make acceptable recommendations that can solve policy problems without harmful side effects, how to describe evidence and recommendations in a manner that changes minds. This book is meant to help individuals who want to improve the policy decisions that affect people's lives.
Responsible and evidence-based decision making is needed not just in government and social service agencies. It is also needed in businesses and in nongovernmental organizations such as charities, foundations, and non-profits. In this book, we state our values clearly: We believe that evidence-based decision making is superior to decisions based purely on opinion, intuition, and emotion. We also believe that responsible decision-making requires taking into account the possibility of harmful consequences from policy change, no matter how well intentioned those changes may be.
Each chapter now has clearly defined activities and deliverables, supported by workflow diagrams, along with tracking indicators that policy researchers can use to assess how well they are performing the activities. New frameworks are presented such as the M2 test (meaningfulness and manageability), the Policy Change Wheel, and STORM (Social, Technical, Organizational, Regulatory, and Market) context conditions to make it easier for readers to remember what needs to be done. All examples are updated, they are drawn from a variety of contexts, including international and business policy, as well as domestic policy and social service.
Each chapter was substantially revised to make the activities and outcomes of policy research clear. We've introduced new content, including an entirely new chapter on synthesizing existing evidence. We've exposed the reader to useful websites, to new ways of involving stakeholders in the Case for Change, and to ways of ensuring that recommendations derived from evidence-gathering are meaningful and manageable. A nautical theme, a conversational style, and humor are used throughout to make the reading enjoyable. (Look out for puns!)