Do Canadian University Students in Political Science and Public Administration Learn to Perform Critical Appraisal?

By Lapointe, Luc; Ouimet, Mathieu et al. | Canadian Public Administration, September 2015 | Go to article overview

Do Canadian University Students in Political Science and Public Administration Learn to Perform Critical Appraisal?


Lapointe, Luc, Ouimet, Mathieu, Charbonneau, Marissa, Beorofei, Emilie T., Canadian Public Administration


Introduction

Effective evidence-informed policy making requires civil servants to select the best available evidence that fits their specific context and that may inform decision makers concerning the best available options to solve a problem. This may sound like a straightforward and unproblematic task, but it can often be more complicated than expected. Numerous players, including think tanks, are important actors in the policy-making process, and while many think tanks might offer policy advices based on sound research evidence, others might advocate for particular interests so that "their contributions can make it difficult to distinguish between information and advice that is based on sound objective research versus that which reflects a vested interest" (Canada, Policy Horizons Canada 2013). In order to identify the best available research evidence, civil servants--mainly policy analysts--should be able to filter research studies to ensure that those they consider insufficiently rigorous will not be communicated to policy decision makers (or communicated, but with information on their level of uncertainty). Otherwise, why would policy analysts use research in order to answer a question if they are not aware of the reliability and validity of the knowledge they discover? This is why some researchers like Thomas, Newman and Oliver (2013) believe that critical appraisal of empirical research studies is fundamental in order to foster effective evidence-informed decision making.

The current study focused specifically on one of the most critical stages of evidence-informed policy, critical appraisal of research studies, and aimed to answer the following two questions: 1) Do Canadian university programs in public affairs, public administration, public policy and/or political science currently train students in how to perform critical appraisal using systematic and validated tools? 2) To what extent are social sciences university courses in critical appraisal effective? As evidence- informed policy is a relatively new concept and as it is only slowly beginning to spread outside the health field, the research hypothesis was that only a few Canadian universities would currently offer this kind of training.

The remainder of this article is structured in six sections. The next section defines what evidence-informed policy making is. The second section identifies some barriers that hamper this process. The third section defines the activity of critical appraisal and introduces the readers to existing tools/checklists designed to achieve this task. The fourth section presents the methods that were used to: 1) identify university courses in critical appraisal offered to students enrolled in public affairs, public administration, public policy and/or political science programs in Canada, and to 2) find prospective experimental or quasi-experimental studies that have assessed the effectiveness of such courses in social sciences programs all over the world. The results and conclusion are presented in the fifth and sixth sections, respectively.

Research evidence and policy making

In the context of the complex challenges that governments across the world are faced with, from budget crises to climate change, the use of empirical research evidence of different types in policy making becomes more and more relevant (Vanlanddingham and Drake 2012). Research evidence is part of the several types of information that public policy analysts working inside the public service retrieve and analyze to provide advice to elected or non-elected policy makers (Ouimet et al. 2010). The use of research knowledge in public sector organizations depends on an in-house absorptive capacity, which refers to the ability to acquire and use external knowledge (Cohen and Levinthal 1990; Ouimet et al. 2009). A similar, more policy-focused concept is "policy analytical capacity," which refers to the ability of a government and its public service to access and apply technical and research knowledge (Howlett 2009; Riddell 2007). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Do Canadian University Students in Political Science and Public Administration Learn to Perform Critical Appraisal?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.