SYLLABUS FOR

PPA 500A -- THESIS SEMINAR

GRADUATE PROGRAM IN PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY -- FALL 1998

 

Professor: Rob Wassmer, Ph.D.
Office: Room 3037, Tahoe (Business) Hall
Office Phone: 278 - 6304
E- Mail: rwassme@csus.edu
Office Hours: Thursday, 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.; and by appointment if necessary
   
Required Texts:
  1. CSUS Guide For Thesis/Project Format, latest edition, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, CSUS;

  2. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process, Kjell Rudestam and Rae Newton, Sage;

  3. Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article; Howard S. Becker, Chicago Press;

  4. The Sacramento Ballpark, CSUS Master’s Project, Matt Almy, Summer 1997 (mimeo);

  5. ConductingResearch Literature Reviews; Arlene Fink, Sage.
  Texts are available at the Hornet Bookstore. You will need to buy them before our first meeting. When a reading assignment for a particular class meeting is given, the text should be brought to the class meeting.

Objective: To provide faculty and peer guidance in preparation of materials to satisfy the Master’s Project/Thesis requirement. This includes clarification of general program expectations, familiarization with research resources, and basic support in a structured environment of feedback.

Method: Interactive work sessions involving students reporting on progress and problem solving with peer feedback and consultation. Students are expected to complete assignments and consult with their thesis committee throughout the semester.

Prerequisite: Completion of all of the core courses in the Public Policy and Administration Program (PPA 200, 205, 207, 210, 220A, 220B, 230, 240) with at least a B- in each course and an average grade of "B" or better in all. The one exception is that you are taking your final required core course(s) this semester.

Meeting Time and Location: 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Room 1027 Tahoe (Business) Hall

 

Schedule:

Session 1 -- Saturday, September 19

Due at time of class meeting:

  1. Read Chapter 1 in The Sacramento Ballpark. Pay attention to how it is organized and formatted. Come prepared to discuss.

  2. Read Chapters 1, 2, and 3 in Surviving Your Dissertation. Come prepared to discuss.
  1. Read Chapters 1 and 2 in Writing for Social Scientists. Come prepared to discuss.

  2. A two-page, double-spaced, typed initial prospectus on the topic you are considering. (see description below). You are required to bring two copies of your initial prospectus to the first class meeting. List on your prospectus who you intend your major advisor to be. Your major advisor must be someone who is a full-time professor in the PPA Program (this includes Hodson, Jensen, Lascher, Shulock, Waste, and Wassmer; other part-time instructors can be used as secondary advisors). Make sure you talk to this person before the first meeting. If you need help in finding someone, please call me before the first meeting.

The prospectus should be in three specific (and required) parts. Each part should be one to two paragraphs long. The first part should include a discussion of the broad context of the proposed research and the need for it. In the second part, specifically write out the research question you will address in your work (see Chapter 2 in Surviving Your Dissertation). In the final part describe the methodology you will use to offer answers to these questions (case studies, modeling, data, statistical analysis, etc.)

In the first session you will be matched with another student (called from now on your research partner) who is doing research most similar to your own. The assignment, due the next session, is to mark up your research partner's prospectus with specific suggestions and/or how to possibly improve the overall idea in the prospectus. You must send a copy of your completed assignment to the student you have been paired with by Saturday, September 26. This can be done by fax, e-mail, or snail mail.

Required Private Session – Schedule Between September 28 and October 13

In between the first and second meetings of the course, you are required to meet with me for about 45 minutes in my office to discuss your choice of topic, your selection of previous literature to review, and how you will write up your literature review (chapter two in your thesis). We can schedule appointments at the end of Session 1. When you come to this meeting, bring a list of at least 10 articles or books that relate to your topic. If possible, bring the books and Xerox copies of all the articles to the meeting.

 

Session 2 -- Saturday, October 17

Due at time of class meeting:

  1. A copy of the critique/suggestions assigned in Session 1.
  1. Read Chapters 1, 2, and 3 in Conducting Research Literature Reviews. Be prepared to discuss
  1. Read Chapters 4 and 6 in Surviving Your Dissertation. Be prepared to discuss.
  1. Read Steps 3, 4, and 5 in Writing for Social Scientists. Be prepared to discuss.
  1. Read Chapter 2 in The Sacramento Ballpark. Pay attention to how it is organized and formatted. Come prepared to discuss.
  2. In the proper format (see page 106 of the Almy Thesis), submit a bibliography of at least 10 articles or books that will be in your literature review. For each entry in your bibliography, prepare a one-page, single-spaced, summary of the article and book. In your summary pay particular attention to how it relates to your thesis question. Finally, submit a two-page, single-spaced, outline of what your literature review (Chapter 2 of your thesis) will look like. Bring two copies of all this material so one can be shared with your research partner.

The assignment, due the next session, is to again critique your research partner’s choice of literature to review and the outline of their literature review. Your goal is to offer suggestions on how to possibly improve these. You should send a copy of your completed assignment to the student you have been paired with by Saturday, October 24.

 

Session 3 -- Saturday, November 14

Due at time of class meeting:

  1. A copy of the critique/suggestions assigned in Session 2.

  2. Read Chapters 8 and 9 in Surviving Your Dissertation. Be prepared to discuss.

  3. Read Chapters 6 and 7 in Writing for Social Scientists. Come prepared to discuss.

  4. Read Chapters 4 and 5 in Conducting Research Literature Reviews. Be prepared to discuss.

  5. Two copies of your completed first draft of your literature review (Chapter 2 of your thesis). This should be around 15 to 20 double-spaced pages.

The assignment, due the next session, is to mark-up a copy of your research partner’s Chapter 2. You should send a copy of your comments to the student you have been paired with by Saturday, November 21.

 

Session 4 -- Saturday, December 12

Due at time of class meeting:

  1. Copy of the marked up Chapter 2 assigned in Session 3.

  2. Read Chapters 8 and 10 in Writing for Social Scientists. Come prepared to discuss.

  3. Read Chapter 3, 4, and 5 in The Sacramento Ballpark. Pay attention to how it is organized and formatted. Come prepared to discuss.

  4. Read CSUS Guide for Thesis/Project Format. Come prepared to discuss.

  5. A completed first draft of your Chapter 1 (fifteen to twenty double-spaced pages).

 

Additional Required Session -- Choice of Times (A Schedule Will be Forthcoming)

The Public Policy and Administration Graduate Program, along with the College of Social Science and Interdisciplinary Studies, sponsors a Fall Seminar Series. Since the goal of this course is for you to learn how to complete a research project, seeing and understanding research that others have done should assist in this learning process. It is suggested, if at all possible, that you attend all seminars. It is required that you attend at least one seminar, and by Session 4 on December 12 turn in a two-page, double-spaced, typed description and critique of the seminar you attended.

 

Grades:

Grades of only credit and no credit are assigned for this course. I will not give out any incompletes. The minimum performance to be assigned a credit is to complete all of the assignments and to attend three out of the four Saturday sessions. (I will take attendance each Saturday we are scheduled to meet.) If you miss one Saturday session, the assignments that are due that Saturday must be turned in to me by the following Monday (no exceptions). If you cannot meet these requirements, you should drop the course now.

 

The Chapter Content of a Thesis

 

Chapter 1

What are the questions you are investigating? In theory and in application, why are these questions important? Relate the topic to the public policy and/or administrative material you have learned in this program. Describe how the rest of the thesis/project will flow.

 

Chapter 2

 

What is already known about this issue? Review a selective sampling of academic literature, existing reports, and policy/administrative history of the issue. Reference the material you have been exposed to in the program. Conclude with a summary of what gap in our understanding/knowledge of the topic your work will fill. Identify the specific variables involved with your issue.

 

Chapter 3

 

What is the methodology you will use to gather the facts to answer your research question(s)? Include data collection and data analysis methods. Be specific and detailed.

 

Chapter 4

 

Present your findings with an analysis. Save the major findings and conclusions for Chapter 5.

 

Chapter 5

 

Summarize what you have done in each of the previous chapters and then draw conclusions. What does your analysis say? What are the answers you have derived to your research questions? What surprised you? What could you not find? Any suggestions on how to do differently?

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