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About Policy Research
Unlike scientific research, policy research is no "fair and unbiased". Politics often drives policy.
- Bias: You will confront bias. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing because it can help you define stakeholders and identify allies. Be aware of it, determine what it is, and decide whether the resource is useful for you.
- Lobbying vs. Advocacy: Lobbying often has a negative connotation, while advocacy has a positive one. Both intend to influence policy and both require funding. There is, however, an important legal distinction between the two.
You will use non-academic sources, so remember to be skeptical. This guide should help you find good resources that will support your endeavor to understand your policy in context.
The Policy Process
It is important to understand the policy process for your organization of interest. Ask yourself the following questions about the policy:
- Is it internally or externally driven?
- Is it in response to legislation or governmental mandate?
- Is there an organized process for arriving at the policy?
- Who makes the decision to implement?
- Who enforces it?
These resources will help you find bills and/or initiatives specifically related to the practice of nursing:
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
- American Nurses Association (ANA)
- National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
When considering policy initiatives, look to the following resources for ideas:
Newspapers and Media outlets
- Trends -- Enter "health policy" or "nursing" and review the results
- Choose a person, activist, or group that is vocal in an area that interests you
- Of policy makers at all levels
- Of businesses in your area of interest
Find a topic of interest, and let that guide you to a policy.
Health Institutes are tuned into the political landscape. They have pre-existing networks that respond to and drive policy. These are good places to look for policies and background information.
Health Institute vs. Health Foundation
- Research Institutes - endowed for doing research, usually in a specific area
- Think Tanks - a type of research institute, also known as policy institutes
- Public Health Institutes - non-profit, can be governmental organizations, focus on organizing public health efforts
- Academic Health Institues - associated with a college or university, intended to turn academic research into a guide for health care and health policy, a category of Research Institutes
- Foundations - a legal categorization of non-profit entities that donate funds and support to other organizations, or provide funding for its own charitable purposes
- Private Foundations - typically endowed by an individual or family
Think Tanks are institutes that conduct research and advocacy on specific topics, like social policy and health care. Think tanks matter because they influence policy in a variety of ways including testifying before Congress, media appearances, and funded research projects. Visit a think tank's website to get ideas about policy issues on the forefront.
Always read the "About" section to determine whether a particular Think Tank will be a good resource. Transparency is key. Determine whether the Think Tank discloses:
- Financial information
- Funding sources
- Leadership information
- Their Annual Report
- Their Mission Statement
- Who quotes their work
- The tone and tenor of their site
- Their focus--political, economic, aid, etc.