chapter  2
30 Pages

Strategies for Policy Research in Context

Decision makers need information but they need specific kinds of infor­

mation that is prepared in forms they can digest and use and that is pro­

vided in a timely manner. Moreover, the information needs of decision

makers at the national level differ from those of officials at the state and

local government levels. Although policy research is conducted in a wide

variety of situations, each situation requires a unique research strategy. It

is also true, however, that policy researchers need a guide, a common ap­

proach to their task, complex and varied though it may be. This chapter

attempts to provide such a guide by synthesizing several popular ap­

proaches to policy research and linking them to a common purpose:

meeting the information needs of decision and policy makers. Given this

purpose, our approach to policy research will focus on three main points:

• Identifying the major information needs and information

utilization capabilities in a given policy problem

• Designing and implementing appropriate and feasible research


• Communicating usable information to decision makers

The chapter begins with a brief introduction to three common models or

approaches that are representative of the ways students are taught to do

policy research. Each approach offers important insights, but none is broad

or flexible enough to serve as a general model for practicing policy re­

searchers. In essence, each model assumes that policy research problems are

more clearly and narrowly defined than they are in the real world.