SYLLABUS FOR

PPA 500B-- THESIS SEMINAR

GRADUATE PROGRAM IN PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, SACRAMENTO

Spring 2000

 

Professor: Bob Waste Ph.D.

E-Mail: wasterj@csus.edu

Office: Room 3036, Tahoe (Business) Hall

Office Phone: 278 - 4944

Office Hours: Tuesday, 5:00 � 6:00 p.m.; Thursdays, 9:00 a.m.- noon & 2:00 - 4:00 p.m., and by appointment

Required Material:

  1. CSUS Guide for Thesis/Project Format, Latest Edition, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, CSUS,

available for purchase at bookstore or free on web at http://www.csus.edu/rgs/gradstud/forms/MANUAL.PDF ;

  1. Writing Your A+ Thesis, 1997, Research and Education Association;
available for purchase at bookstore or on web at Amazon.Com ;
  1. Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article; 1986, Howard S. Becker, Chicago Press;
available for purchase at bookstore or on web at Amazon.Com ;
  1. A Pocket Style Manual, 1997, Diana Hacker, Third Edition, Bedford/St. Martin's Books;
available for purchase at bookstore or on web at Amazon.Com ;

Note also that a companion web site offers an abundance of resources that are helpful to the student writer. The web site is located at:

http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/hacker/pocket

  1. Teenage Birthrates in California: What Really Matters? 1999, Deborah Franklin (sample MPPA Master's Thesis);
available free on the web at http://www.csus.edu/indiv/w/wassmerr/Frankout.htm .
  1. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, 1995, Anne Lamott, New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday ISBN 0385480016 (pbk). An inspirational account of one writer's path to moving past "writer's block" and getting the job done. Available at bookstore and at Amazon.Com.

You will need to buy all required texts before our first meeting. Most of you will have purchased the first 4 books for the earlier PPA 500A course, last semester. 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 completing the Master�s thesis requirement. This includes clarification of general program expectations, specific deadlines to help you meet the May 26, 2000 Spring thesis deadline, and support for your thesis completion efforts in a structured, directive and supportive feedback environment.

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) - including the first PPA Thesis/Project course (PPA 500A) 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: TBA.

We will meet 4 times at a mutually convenient week day or night time to be scheduled in the first week of the semester.

Schedule:

Session 1 PROSPECTUS & LIT REVIEW CHAPTER MEETING -- Feb. 24, 6-7:30PM

Complete by time of class meeting:

  1. Read pages 40-65 in Writing Your A+ Thesis and pages 94-104 in A Pocket Style Manual. This material will help you develop the thesis statement and prospectus that is due the first day we meet. Come prepared to discuss material.
  1. Review Chapters 1-5 in Writing for Social Scientists. Come prepared to discuss.
  1. Read Chapters 1 and 2 in Teenage Birthrates in California. Pay attention to how it is organized and formatted. Come prepared to discuss.
  1. Bring to this class session:

A) A two to three-page, double-spaced, typed prospectus on the topic you are considering. (See description below and example). 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 two to three 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 Writing Your A+ Thesis). In the final part describe the methodology you will use to offer answers to these questions (case studies, modeling, data, statistical analysis, etc.)

B) In the proper format, submit a bibliography (example of bibliography) of at least 10 articles or books, and 3 popular press articles, that are in your literature review. For each article or book entry in your bibliography, prepare a one-page, single-spaced, summary (example of summary) of the article and book. For each popular press article prepare a half-page, single-spaced, summary. In your summaries pay particular attention to how it relates to your thesis question. Finally, submit a two-page, single-spaced, outline (example of outline) of 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.

In the first session you will be matched with another student (your "research partner" for the purposes of our thesis/project seminar) who is doing research most similar to your own. The assignment, due the next session, is to mark up your research partner's thesis prospectus and literature review chapter with specific suggestions on how to strengthen the prospectus and lit review chapter. You must send a copy of your completed assignment to the instructor and the student you have been paired with no later than two days prior to the second class meeting. This can be done by fax, e-mail, or snail mail.

TIP # 1: Treat your "research partner very, very well. They are a key lifeline in getting the thesis completed. They are there to help and support you, and you them. Remember the key to this working well is reciprocity; really digging in and helping them, and vice versa.


Required Private Session � Schedule Between Monday, February 21 and Friday, March 3

In between the first and second meetings of the course, you are required to meet with me for about 30 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 Chapter 3, your methodology chapter. If possible, bring the books and Xerox copies of all the articles to the meeting. Include at least 2 sources drawn from the following Internet locations:

TIP # 2: Here's some help with your research: Two great one-stop Internet shopping places for social science research are the following:

http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/hacker/resdoc/social_sciences/general/htm

This is a compilation of incredibly useful resources sources, including: the US Census Bureau; the American Statistics Index maintained by Congress; the Gallup Poll from 1972 to the present; the Social Science Citation Index, a collection of over 1,000 searchable social science journals and sources; and the Statistical Abstract of the United States, from 1879 to the present.

A second on-line source, maintained by the University of Wisconsin, with over 650 annotated links to data-related sources on the Internet is:

http://dpls.dacc.wisconsin.edu/internet.html


Session 2 -- METHODOLOGY CHAPTER REVIEW SESSION March 16, 6-7:30PM

Due at time of class meeting:

1. Read, as needed, Bird by Bird.

4. Two copies of your completed first draft of your methodology chapter (Chapter 3 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 3. You should send a copy of your comments to the student you have been paired with by no later than 2 days prior to the third meeting of our seminar.


Session 3 --FINDINGS & ANALYSIS CHAPTER April 6, 6-7:30PM

Due at time of class meeting:

  1. Two copies of your first draft of chapter 4, the findings & analysis chapter.
  1. Read Chapters 8 and 10 in Writing for Social Scientists. Come prepared to discuss.
  1. Read Chapter 3, 4, and 5 in Teenage Birthrates in California. Pay attention to how it is organized and formatted. Come prepared to discuss.

The assignment, due the next session, is to mark-up a copy of your research partner�s Chapter 4. You should send a copy of your comments to the student you have been paired with by no later than 2 days prior to the third meeting of our seminar.


Session 4 --DEFENDING YOUR REVISED FINDINGS & ANALYSIS CHAPTER -

To be scheduled by Instructor during the semester, probably May 18, 6-9PM

Due at time of class meeting:

  1. Two copies of your entire thesis, meaning REVISED drafts of Chapters 1-5 (1-6 in some cases).

Come prepared to give a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation oral defense of your thesis at this meeting.


Additional Required Session -- Choice of Times

The Public Policy and Administration Graduate Program, along with the College of Social Science and Interdisciplinary Studies, sponsors a 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 turn in a two-page, double-spaced, typed description and critique of the seminar you attended.

A schedule will be posted sometime in early Spring semester.

Please note that an incomplete grade will be assigned only for verifiable medical or work-related circumstances.

The minimum for a passing CR (Credit) grade is timely completion of the appropriate chapters and regular attendance at all scheduled meetings of the seminar.

 


 

Typical 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. Your methodology may involve case studies, best practices, survey research, data analysis, modeling, or a combination of all of these methodologies.

Chapter 4

Present your findings with an analysis

TIP # 3: Remember, negative findings are also important. If your finding did no go in the direction you expected, dig for why and explain the results. Good social science usually contains non-obvious and non-trivial findings. Strive to do likewise. Do not be too concerned if you find out something that is not earth shattering or that doesn't rock the social science boat. There is a reason that we call the conventional wisdom, the conventional wisdom. Often, that's because the conventional wisdom is - in fact - both conventional and correct.

Chapter 5 The Big Picture

Quickly summarize what you have done in each of the previous chapters and then draw policy & scholarly 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 it differently? What are the scholarly research and public policy implications of your study, and why? Articulate and defend your answer. This is the "so what" part of your thesis, make it count!


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