This course covers the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF). The Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) is a systematic approach to narrative that can be deployed both in policy analysis and research interested in the policy process. While developed in just 2010, the NPF has seen rapid adoption, appearing in many peer-reviewed venues including but not limited to Critical Policy Studies, Policy Sciences, Policy Studies Journal, Political Psychology, Political Studies, and Social Science Quarterly, as well as being featured in Paul Sabatier’s classic Theories of the Policy Process, 3rd Edition. The aim of this course is for participants, upon completion, to be able to apply the NPF in their own research. To this end, each day of the course features a different aspect of the NPF that culminates in the final module, where participants in the course design an NPF study relevant to their own interests.
Day one introduces course participants to the framework. This module begins with the NPF’s interpretive/postmodern origins, traces the framework’s development to its primary scientific orientation, and ends by focusing on the epistemologically flexible aspect of the NPF, that allows both quantitative and qualitative applications that embrace either scientific or interpretive epistemologies. Topics covered include the NPF’s assumptions, ontology and epistemology, constituent theories within the framework, levels of analysis, and introduces the NPF’s model of the individual.
Day two focuses on the NPF’s micro-level of analysis. During this module participants focus on the NPF’s model of the individual: homo narrans. Crucial to the NPF, homo narrans is a model of the individual rooted in social scientific findings from many academic disciplines including but not limited to psychology, communication, economics, and sociology. Homo narrans (unlike dominant economic models in public policy) emphasizes the central role of narrative in managing an individual’s attention, affect, and sense-making within policy processes. Literatures illuminating these origins will be assigned for this module. This section of the course will also take a close look at experimental designs, which are by far the most commonly applied research designs at the micro-level. Major NPF research findings will also be highlighted during this section of the course.
Day three moves the course to the meso-level of analysis. While the micro-level is primarily concerned with the individual—how actors are influenced by and influence with narrative—the meso-level is interested in the deployment of narrative by groups and coalitions within the policy process. Here the course hones in on policy consequential activities at the policy subsystem level, paying close attention to narrative strategies employed by groups and coalitions at the meso-level. Strategies covered will include scope of conflict, heresthetics, and the devil/angel shift, among others. Given that content analysis is the most common NPF methodology applied at the meso-level, this section of the course will also present a brief overview of content analyses methodologies commonly used within NPF meso-level applications. Major meso-level findings will also be highlighted during this section of the course.
While most of the NPF’s applications have been quantitative, an increasing number of applications are qualitative. Day four examines qualitative applications of the NPF, focusing, on the novelty of the NPF’s epistemological flexibility. Referred to as “plug-and-play”, the NPF provides a theoretical platform robust enough to approach research questions through either a scientific or an interpretive epistemology (and the accompanying standards of each approach). Methods covered in this module include interviews, participant observation, and focus groups. Important qualitative research findings will also be emphasized in this section of the course.
Day five culminates in the opportunity for course participants to design their own NPF study. Specifying NPF related research questions, levels of analysis, potential data sources, and appropriate methodologies, course participants will specify and share NPF research designs appropriate to policy areas or questions that interest them with the rest of the class. Students will then participate in a workshop designed to hone their research designs. Students should leave this course with the beginnings of a workable NPF project.