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English 7790 (001/601) Spring 2011

Public Interest Writing: Communicating in the Public Policymaking Process

Dr. Catherine F. Smith, Instructor

Office: 2109 Bate Building


Phone: 252-328-5513



Course Goals


  1. To critically consider the concept 'public interest' and to recognize the variety of ways that the public's interest might be defined
  2. To learn about communication's function in defining public problems and deliberating public policy solutions
  3. To practice using skills, strategies, and researched information to communicate effectively in public policy making processes

Course Projects and Evaluation




Semester Grade


Problem definition




Public deliberation




Contribution to collective achievement by enegetic responses to readings and engagement with peer responses, helpful peer review of drafts, and other notable efforts toward mutual learning.








Total points possible





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This course is designed for progressive learning. Assignments build on each other sequentially. It is important, therefore, to follow the schedule and work at the pace indicated.

Major projects are allocated large blocks of time for completion through a sequence of tasks. Consideration of public interest (1 week) is followed by two major projects, Problem Definition (7 weeks) and Public Deliberation (6 weeks). Within each project, week-by-week tasks keep you moving along and progressively developing skills. You'll do best by sticking with the program and the schedule.

The schedule might be updated (e.g., due dates might change) throughout the semester. I will notify you about any changes by email . These notifications will have the subject line ENG 7790 update for (week). Check your ECU email often!

How to use the schedule (below) to plan and to do your work:

For each week move from left to right across the columns to know objective for that week (Activity), to access assigned materials (Readings), and to meet deadlines (Due Dates). In the Activity column, use the Assignment link. In Readings, access online readings and get directions to offline readings for the week. In Due Dates, see deadlines for assigned products--discussion forum posts, drafts for peer review, final project papers, etc. Note: All products are due by 11 pm on the due date. Also in Due Dates, see method of submission. If no method of submission is specified, use the digital dropbox. Important: The instructor's email inbox is not a default submission method. Do not email a written product to the instructor without clearing it in advance.






Due Dates

Week 1


Public interest




Course Overview


Stone, Policy Paradox, Preface to the revised edition p. vii-xi;"Introduction," p. 1-14; Part 1 "Politics: "The Market and the Polis," pp. 17-34


Wikipedia ( entry for 'public interest'


The Public Policy Process and related scenarios (Smith, 2d ed, chapter 1, p. 1-17)


Discussion forums (in Blackboard):

• Bio 1/10

• Public Interest 1/12

• Brainstorm 1/14

• Reading responses (#1 to Stone) 1/18 or before

Post by 11 pm (latest) on due date. Post earlier, if possible. Early posting encourages replies. Reply to other students' posts throughout week.

All Wk 1 posts due by 11 pm (latest) on 1/18.


When you post, always provide your name and a title for your post . This will help us know who's saying what.


When you reply, always reply to the item you intend to comment on or answer--the original post? a subsequent reply? Keep your replies within the initial thread. Do not start a new thread with your reply.


Week 2


Note that Monday 1/17 is a holiday (MLK Jr Birthday)

Problem Definition




Stone, Part III "Problems" (pp. 137-187, chs 6 "Symbols" and 7 "Numbers")


Communicating in the Policy Process

( Smith, chapter 2, p. 1-30)

Framing the Problem: Key Concepts, How to Define a Problem

(Smith, pp.31-59)




Discussion forum (in Blackboard)

Reading response to Stone and Smith anytime before 11 pm on 1/24





Week 3


Problem Definition


Knowing the Record: Introduction

How to Conduct Legislative Research and Write a Legislative History

(Smith, ch 4, pp. 60-85)



Preliminary problem description (in Blackboard digital drop box) by 1/24


When you submit, always provide your name and the title of the submission, eg Greene preliminary problem description. As the semester progresses, you will have multiple submissions in the drop box. Make sure that each is easily identifiable (for grading).

Week 4


Problem definition


No assigned readings. Use this week for researching and reading legislation.


Week 5


Problem Definition


A general method of communicating in the policy process

(Smith, ch 2, pp. 24-30)


Meet the members of your small group forum. To get acquainted, post your preliminary problem description in your forum by 2/8. Reply to posted descriptions throughout the week.

Week 6


Problem definition


Williams ch 3 Actions and ch 4 Characters

First draft of legislative history report due 2/15 by 11 pm in your small group forum.

Document must be a complete working draft including citations.

Peers and instructor will provide feedback.


Week 7


Problem definition



Knowing the Arguments: Introduction

(Smith, ch. 5, pp. 86-102)


Stone, Part III Problems ch 8 Causes and ch 9 Interests, pp. 188-231


Legislative history report due 2/28 by 11 pm in digital drop box


Week 8


Problem definition


Williams ch 5 (Cohesion and Coherence)

Revise problem definition to incorporate legislative history and other components, as assigned.

Edit and revise the problem definition document for readability and usability (cohesion, coherence, concision).


Spring Break



Week 9


Transition to public deliberation


Congressional hearings

Final full problem definition due 3/14 by 11 pm in digital dropbox




Week 10


Public deliberation


Providing Testimony

(Smith, ch. 8 pp. 137-153)

Requesting Action

(Smith, ch. 6 pp. 103-125)

Observe hearings (C-SPAN on TV or Web; video on committee websites, and clips in Video Resources, this website)

Post comments on hearings you observed in discussion forum

Week 11


Public deliberation


Research House and Senate committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction for your problem

Observe hearings by that committee

Role-play: you will be assigned roles as committee member (or chair) and as witness in simulated hearings. To perform your roles, you will choose characters (i.e., your member identity/persona and your witness identity/persona).


Draft member statement and witness statement. Post drafts in small group forum for peer and instructor review.

Week 12


Public deliberation


Read Williams, as assigned.


Revise hearing document drafts according to peer/instructor feedback

Week 13





Public deliberation



As assigned

Congressional committee hearing (simulation)

(post between 6 am and 10 pm each day)

Week 14


Public deliberation


As assigned

Congressional committee hearing (simulation)

(post between 7 am and 10 pm each day)

Week 15


Evaluate and debrief


Post responses in Evaluation forum


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Course Policies


Submitting Projects

* Due dates are posted on Schedule. Changes in due dates will be communicated by email, later recorded in the Schedule. For the most current information on course schedule, check the most recent weekly email update. If you are uncertain about a due date, email the instructor to confirm.

• All projects are due by 11 pm on the date indicated. No extended deadlines without prior permission. Extensions are possible for justifiable need, but they must be granted in advance. Work submitted late without permission will be penalized by reduction in grade (1 pt per day) or not accepted, at the instructor's discretion.

* Product length: Limited to suggested length, which might vary by assignment. If there is no suggested length, the default is three (3) pages (@ 1000 words) of serif 12 point type, space and a half, one inch margins, document (.doc) file format.

• File format: WORD file (.doc) format is required. Do not use the file format (.docx) that is now standard in WORD 6 Vista. If you write using Vista, you must save the document in an older version of WORD before submitting it for 7790. An alternative is to save in rtf format. However, .that is not preferred. For 7790, doc format is preferred.

* File name: course number (90) + your initials+ project number + product name abbreviation+ .doc (for example, 90cfs1probdef.doc is how Catherine F. Smith should name her submission for Project 1, problem definition)

• Submission method: Reading responses, replies and drafts for peer review will be submitted in Blackboard's discussion forums (specified by name). Final written products will be submitted in Blackboard's digital drop box. Do not email a final written product to the instructor without advance permission to do so. Other methods will occasionally be used. Check the assignment for submission method.

• All projects must be submitted to complete the course.

• All work must be completed by the last class day of the semester (April 26). No incompletes will be given except in cases of unavoidable emergency.


No Resubmitting Projects

After they are evaluated, projects may not be resubmitted to improve an original grade. However, you are encouraged to talk with me while you are working on projects. If you are local, I am available to meet with you ftf during regular office hours (Wed 12-1) or by appointment. Email me to set an appointment. If you are not local, we can talk by telephhone at an agreed time. Also, you can also reach me by email Monday-Friday (


Since this is a web-based course, we will not hold regularly scheduled classes. (Exception: simulated hearings will occur on specified days in weeks 13 and 14, with required participation on those days.) However, I do expect everyone to take an active role in discussion forums as they evolve during the term. I also strongly encourage you to visit me during office hours or talk by telephone to discuss coursework.

Access to Resources

Some links on this website access resources outside of the East Carolina University community. These resources have been selected for their educational value and their use does not imply endorsement of any products, services, or opinions found in these resources. Further, neither East Carolina University nor any faculty member assumes any responsibility for either the content or the accessibility of these resources.

Academic Honesty

In this course, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty may result, at the instructor's discretion, in an evaluation of zero (0) points for the project involved with no chance for resubmission. If you are uncertain about whether something you are doing might be considered plagiarism, ask the instructor before you complete the work in question.

East Carolina University and the Americans with Disabilities Act

East Carolina University and this course seek to comply fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Students requesting accommodations based on a covered disability must go to the Department for Disability Support Services, Brewster A-114, to verify the disability before any accommodations can occur. The telephone number is 252-328-679. At your earliest opportunity, talk with the instructor, too.

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Required texts (will use throughout the course):

- Smith, Catherine (2009). Writing Public Policy: A Practical Guide to Communicating in the Policy Making Process, 2d ed. (Oxford UP)

- Stone, Deborah (2002).  Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making, rev. ed (Norton)

- Williams, Joseph (2002).  Basics of Clarity and Grace , 4th ed.


Another text of interest:

- Allison, Libby and Miriam F, Williams (2008). Writing for the Government (Pearson Longman)


Access other required materials through URLs on the course website

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