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These are sample and past PhD comprehensive exam questions; *you may be presented with different questions on your actual exam.* June 2013

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A variety of budgetary reform movements in the 20th century focused on performance in some way. Review these reform efforts and their similarities and differences. Have any had lasting impacts, and if so what? Why have past movements in this vein not always been successful?

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As a distinguished graduate of Tennessee State University’s Ph.D. program in public policy and administration, the Tennessee Legislature has contracted out your services to measure the “financial impacts of per pupil spending on student achievement” in Tennessee, compared to “other” American states. In order to determine the associated costs of this study, the legislative sub-committee on Education Finance in Tennessee has asked you to prepare a proposal for this research project. Construct a research design that would adequately measure the previously stated social phenomenon and the costs associated with such a study. Your research proposal should include the following components:

Literature Review
What is the generic public administration literature to which you would refer in this consulting assignment? How would you do your literature search?
Hypotheses
A section containing the hypotheses tested in the manuscript (written as null hypotheses). Provide three hypotheses minimum.
Data
Conceptual definitions: What variables are you going to use in your manuscript and why?
Operational Definitions: Where you are going to collect the data you plan to use in your manuscript?
Research Methods
The statistical methods you could use to test the data and why you believe this technique is the most appropriate for your manuscript
Anticipated Findings
The anticipated findings of your research
Limitations
The anticipated limits of your study
Conclusion
The anticipated policy implications of the research
The anticipated costs of the study

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As a distinguished graduate of Tennessee State University’s Ph.D. program in public policy and administration, the Tennessee Legislature has contracted out your services to measure the “financial impacts of per pupil spending on student achievement” in Tennessee, compared to “other” American states. In order to determine the associated costs of this study, the legislative sub-committee on Education Finance in Tennessee has asked you to prepare a proposal for this research project. Construct a research design that would adequately measure the previously stated social phenomenon and the costs associated with such a study. Your research proposal should include the following components:

Literature Review- What is the generic public policy and/or administration literature to which you would refer in this consulting assignment? How would you do your literature search?
Hypotheses- A section containing the hypotheses tested in the manuscript (written as null hypotheses). Provide three hypotheses minimum.
Data- Conceptual definitions: What variables are you going to use in your manuscript and why?
Operational Definitions- Where you are going to collect the data you plan to use in your manuscript?
Research Methods- The statistical methods you could use to test the data and why you believe this technique is the most appropriate for your manuscript
Anticipated Findings- The anticipated findings of your research
Limitations- The anticipated limits of your study
Conclusion- The anticipated policy implications of the research
The anticipated costs of the study

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As a graduate of Tennessee State University’s Ph.D. program in public policy and
administration, the Tennessee Legislature has contracted out your services to measure the
“financial costs of inmates incarcerated” in Tennessee, compared to “other” states. In order
to determine the associated costs of this study, the legislative sub-committee on Criminal
Justice in Tennessee has asked you to prepare a proposal for this research project. Construct
a research design that would adequately measure the previously stated social phenomenon
and the costs associated with such a study.

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As a graduate of Tennessee State University’s Ph.D. program in public policy and administration, the Tennessee Legislature has contracted out your services to measure the “the effect of per pupil expenditures on high school graduation rates” in Tennessee, compared to “other” states. In order to determine the associated costs of this study, the legislative sub-committee on Education in Tennessee has asked you to prepare a proposal for this research project. Construct a research design that would adequately measure the previously stated social phenomenon and the costs associated with such a study.

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As one of the nationally recognized experts on program implementation, you have been asked to give a presentation to a group of ASPA academics and practitioners. To satisfy both audience components, you decide to focus your presentation on at least 3-4 conceptual periods to demonstrate the evolution of our thinking about implementation. You also plan a very brief discussion outlining some of the frequently used administrative instruments (i.e. regulations, instructions, program guidance) used to implement public policies. How would you structure this presentation and what would you include in the presentation so that the audience will have an overview of the distant past, recent past, present, and future trends in implementation?

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As part of their academic preparation Public Administrators are taught that they are to pursue their professional goals in service to the “public interest.” Through the use of literature, explain various ways these professionals are expected to discover the public interest.

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Budgeting lends itself to quantitative empirical study since it has numerical features, yet the choice of a dependent variable is not necessarily straightforward. Discuss a range of dependent variables which have been used in quantitative studies of budgeting, explaining the type of measure and the authors' rationale for its use given the purpose of the study.

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Cite the major federal financial and budget reforms of the past decade, identifying the basic characteristics (provisions) of these reforms. Discuss the implications which these budget reforms hold for public management at the federal, state, and local levels. Discuss the implications of the value assumptions implicit in these reforms vis-à-vis the fundamental values and beliefs which undergird public administration.

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Criticism of bureaucratic performance seems to have reached epidemic proportions. Although citizen complaints stem from many origins, some observers, such as James Q. Wilson, speak to a common misconception: "The greatest mistake citizens can make when they complain of “the bureaucracy” is to suppose that their frustrations arise simply out of governance problems." While it is apparent Wilson sympathizes with the governance position, others disagree. Assess both sides of this debate, incorporating organization and administration theory as well as related literature, and defend your own position in the debate.

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Describe and explain the theoretical foundations between accountability and accounting. How selection of the accounting model/accounting approach can influence accountability? What are the practical implications of selecting one or another accounting approach for budgeting and audit in the US?

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Describe no less than five (5) approaches/definitions/models of strategic planning and highlight
their possible advantages and limitations in general and when applied to the public sector.

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Describe the major federal financial management and budget reforms since 1960 and discuss their implications for management and public policy. Which one in your opinion was the most radical reform?

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Despite the fact that many academic scholars postulate one particular policy model as the preferred choice for understanding public policymaking, the consensus among other scholars is that the copious typologies of public policymaking imply that each model is useful in understanding distinct policy arenas. Either agree or disagree with this statement. What characterizes different policy arenas? Describe one typology and discuss how it might help conduct public policy analysis.

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Discuss the evolution of the executive and legislative roles in the budget process, at the national and subnational levels, with associated legislative landmarks at the national level. Where applicable, illuminate your discussion with empirical findings.

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Discuss trends in the evolution of budgetary theory over the 20th century, being sure to address the underlying model of decision making, information availability, and disciplinary roots. Give examples of empirical examinations of each theory.

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Discuss two views about the proper way to study policy implementation.

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Dwight Waldo among others has argued that public administration suffers from an identity crisis. This crisis is manifested by continued debates about public administration’s academic stature as well as its relevance to society. How have these issues been addressed in the literature? Where do you stand?

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Explain how public managers can use strategic analysis to implement public policies. Describe some of the possible approaches or models they may use.

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For decades incrementalism was the dominant theory driving research on public budgeting. Discuss the theory, its roots, and applications then review some of the many types of critiques of this theory mounted by subsequent authors. Cite the authors and works concerned (author, approximate year).

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Identify, describe and explain the pivotal works and recurring themes in the literature about policy implementation. Has any scholarly consensus been reached?

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In a renowned 1940 article, V.O. Key, Jr. lamented about “the lack of a budgetary theory.” In one of her numerous writings, Irene Rubin noted that “budget theory today is fragmented and incomplete….It is in the process of being invented.” Based on the work of scholars who address this issue, discuss at least three contrasting theoretical approaches to public budgeting in detail. In addition, address how each of the three theories you chose fit into the evolving broader social science context of public administration scholarship (for example, how did changing models of human cognitive capacity and organizational behavior manifest in the budgeting theory you describe?)

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In attempting to define the field of public administration several authors have commented that American PA has its origins in the progressive era and the reform of government and/or society. The field, according to these authors, has never strayed from these roots. If accurate, this scenario has its limitations. Discuss how this description is or is not true today as well as broader implications for the future of the field.

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In describing the field of public administration some writers feel that public administration is in search of an identity. Others describe public administration as experiencing an identity crisis. Discuss the field’s “identity crisis” and whether you agree with this assessment.

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In her article treating budgeting, included within Naomi Caiden and Aaron Wildavsky’s Public Administration: The State of the Discipline, Naomi Caiden concludes that “Public Budgeting is undoubtedly a discipline in the dictionary definition of the term as a ‘branch of knowledge or learning’.” What evidence supports this assertion? Caiden then cautions: “But if the study of public budgeting is to be more than a collection of disparate concerns, it requires stronger themes, and theories that act not only to unify them but also to reveal the philosophical assumptions underlying empirical description and normative proposals.” Assess the state of the “discipline” of public budgeting.

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In his classic 1940 APSR article, V.O. Key discussed the absence of a theory of budgeting that addresses the fundamental question, “On what basis shall it be decided to allocate x dollars to activity A instead of activity B?” Discuss the development of scholarly attempts to remedy this deficiency, citing relevant literature. Would you argue that a useful theory or theories of budgeting have been developed? Why or why not? Have any of these theories adequately distinguished the differences between capital and operational budgeting?

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In recent years much attention has been given to the issues of equity in funding and performance of children in public schools. The Tennessee Supreme Court in 1993's Tennessee Small Schools systems, et. al. V. Ned Ray McWherter, et al. ruled that the State Constitution imposes upon the General Assembly the obligation to maintain and support a system of free public schools that afford substantially equal educational opportunities to all students. The small school districts that sued the state for equity in funding were primarily poorer counties or cities or special school districts that did not have a substantial taxing base in their communities. It is now nine years after the implementation of the funding equity formula and you have been called upon to design a study to see if equity in funding has led to comparable performance between the small school systems and the non-litigants in the case.
How would you operationalize performance? What are the component parts that would comprise a valid, reliable measure of performance in the context of the lawsuit?
How would you operationalize equity? What are the component parts that would comprise a valid, reliable measure of equity in the context of the lawsuit?
What type of research design would you construct to do this study? What would be your unit of analysis? Why? What would be your sampling frame?

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It has been argued that the field of public administration theory is in crisis. Do you agree with this argument? In your answer, address the paradigmatic issues that gave rise to this argument and explain any relationship you see between these paradigmatic issues, the status of the field, and future theory development.

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Market failures are articulated in traditional public finance theory as rationales for government intervention in the economy - to improve efficiency of market operation. List and thoroughly explain the major types of market failure in public finance theory and typical policy approaches taken to remedy them. (this is not really a full-PhD comp level question but certainly you should be able to answer this).

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Neo-institutional theory has been called the new “paradigm” for organization theory today. Explain how this new development has evolved from prior schools of organization thought as well as departed from it. Does neo-instititutional theory represent an advancement over earlier organization thought particularly when considering public organizations?

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One of the key foundations for early public administration is the so called ‘policy-administration dichotomy’ which separates policy formulation from the administrative (i.e., implementation) function. Briefly describe your perception of the stages of the policy formulation process. In your response, make an argument for one of the following:
• Public policy implementation is separate and distinct from policy formulation.
OR
• Public policy implementation and policy formulation are highly interdependent processes.
Contrast the more historical thinking on policy formulation and implementation with the thinking of contemporary scholars.

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Organizations are said to be difficult to evaluate; yet some argue that the public nature of government organizations compounds this difficulty. Discuss the contributing factors that make public organizations difficult to evaluate. Cite authors who argue that public organizations are more difficult to evaluate as well as some examples of those arguing the opposite view.

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Please answer the following question in its entirety:
a. What are the requisites necessary for researchers to demonstrate causality?
b. What type of research design is most likely to enable a researcher to conclude that a causal relationship exists? Why is this the case?
c. How do you distinguish between internal and external validity?
d. Propose an experimental research design that can be utilized by public administration analysts. In that experimental design you are to specify:

• The nature of the problem that you wish to explore and why it is amenable to research through an experimental design.
• What is the major hypothesis that you would test; how would you operationalize the independent and dependent variables?
• How would you set up the experiment?
• How would you collect the data?
• How would you know that the data support or do not support the hypothesis?
• How would your design control specifically for threats to internal and external validity?
• Why is it very difficult to utilize experimental designs in the social sciences?

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One of the arguments in support of compiling a strategic plan for organizations in the private sector has to do with the need to be proactive and to anticipate competition. With this in mind, what reason(s) are there for government agencies to be proactive? In compiling your answer, be sure to reference, as necessary, strategic planning/management/tools/models that have been developed for the private sector.

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Prominent competing models approach the study of the public organization from different perspectives. In your opinion, which model from public administration and/or organizational theory best explains all processes and procedures necessary for understanding the public or nonprofit organization? Which model is least compelling and why?

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Propose a research design that can be utilized by public administration analysts to study a
particular policy or administrative issue. In the design you are to specify:

• The nature of the problem that you wish to explore and why it is amenable to research through an experimental design.
• What theory are you testing?
• What are the major hypotheses that you will test?
• What are your conceptualize and operational definitions for the independent and dependent variables used in this research design?
• How would you collect and test data?
• How would you know that the data support or do not support the hypotheses?
• How would your design control specifically for threats to internal and external validity?
• What are the various challenges facing research designs in the social sciences?
• What are the requisites necessary for researchers to demonstrate causality?
• What conclusions will be reached by this research design?

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Propose an experimental research design that can be utilized by public administration analysts to study a particular policy or administrative issue. In the design you are to specify:

• The nature of the problem that you wish to explore and why it is amenable to research through an experimental research design.
• What theory are you testing?
• What are the major hypotheses that you will test?
• What are your conceptualize and operational definitions for the independent and dependent variables used in this research design?
• How would you collect and test data?
• How would you know that the data support or do not support the hypotheses?
• How would your design control specifically for threats to internal and external validity?
• What are the various challenges facing research designs in the social sciences?
• What are the requisites necessary for researchers to demonstrate causality?
• What conclusions will be reached by this research design?

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Public budgeting as a phenomenon has been examined from a variety of disciplinary lenses. Support this statement, using your knowledge of the literature in this area. Does any particular disciplinary lens seem more or less useful to you? Why? Does the application of multiple lenses illuminate or obscure our understanding of this phenomenon in your opinion? Why?

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Public policy making is made by various official and unofficial stakeholders in the polity. Identify these stakeholders and describe the “legitimate” powers that each stakeholder possesses in the policy making process. Secondly, is policy making a “process,” or does it resemble something else? How can it be improved?

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Review the alternative definitions of “strategy” as offered by Mintzberg and point out which of the definitions are more suitable for characterizing strategic planning in the public sector.

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Some of the leading models and theories for strategic management have been developed in the private sector. Select at least 2 leading theories/models from the literature, describe each of them and highlight their relative promise or weakness from a public manager's point of view. Would a politician articulate the same strengths and weaknesses?

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Some scholars argue that, if Public Administration can be said to be guided by a paradigm, that paradigm centers around the reform of government and society. Of course, others disagree. Evaluate the reform argument in terms of whether it qualifies as a paradigm. Then examine an alternative approach to public administration and whether it better meets conditions of a paradigm. Which can you better support and defend?

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Some scholars have argued that “public policy is public administration.” First, evaluate whether this statement accurately captures the field to date. Then examine if this statement – or a replacement – explains where the field appears to be heading for the foreseeable future.

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Some writers claim that reengineering is going back to “scientific management” with all its faults. Explain why such claims are correct/incorrect.

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Terms such as ABC, BCA, VFM, Cash Based Accounting or Full Amortization are common when approaches to strategic planning and management in the public sector are discussed.
1) Explain each term and how it might influence a decision maker when it comes to strategic planning and management in the public sector?
2) Would mandatory greater citizen participation constitute a strategic variable if Performance Budgeting is introduced?
3) Could risk management effort/capacity be used as a quality indicator of the strategic plan developed by a government agency? What are some other possible quality indicators?

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The “policy orientation” after 40 years: Review major developments and their implications for researchers and practitioners.

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The budgetary and fiscal environment extant at the time of writing has clearly influenced the focus of research -- and possibly even the theoretical orientation -- of scholars in the field of public budgeting. Using your knowledge of the public budgeting literature, support the previous sentence.

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To enhance accountability President Obama has asked you to study various approaches to accounting in government & nonprofit organizations. What approaches would you consider? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach? Which approach/method would you recommend to the President? Given the Sarbanes-Oxley Act would this approach be as useful in the case of both government & nonprofit organizations?

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Uncertainty is a key feature of the budgetary and fiscal environment in which decision makers - both bureaucratic and political - operate. Discuss how this uncertainty has been incorporated into various theories of public budgeting.

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What are the different kinds of strategies according to Mintzberg? What arguments does he make in the Rise and Fall/The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning? Do his arguments hold true for both the public and private sectors?

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What are the elements of the classical experimental design?

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What are the major approaches to measuring service quality? How applicable are they to the case of public agencies?

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What are the possible limits of quantitative policy analysis? Can qualitative analysis help the policy analyst to overcome all of them?

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What are the requisites necessary for researchers to conclude that a causal relationship exists? Why is this the case?

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What are the tensions between democracy and bureaucracy and how can they be reconciled? What are the tensions between promoting administrative self-interest and the public interest and how can they be reconciled?

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What characterizes different policy arenas? Describe one typology and discuss how it might help to conduct public policy analysis.

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What do we know about the impact of fiscal institutions on budgetary outcomes of various types? Review a variety of studies which address this question, the budgetary outcomes examined and their findings.

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What is agency (principal – agent) theory and how can it be used to improve our understanding of public policy making?

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What is governance and how can it be improved? This central question has attracted much scholarly attention in the past decade. A number of thinkers have faulted the American political system for overemphasizing business interests, over-reliance on technical experts from all sectors of the economy, and the attendant low levels of civil education and/or participation in governance at all levels. Discuss the pros and cons of several attempts to ‘fix’ democracy. Consider what proposals for reform imply for public administration.

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What is the argument that Mintzberg offers in his "The Rise and Fall of Strategic Management"? Why do you agree/disagree with it? What are the implications for government?

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What is the relationship between the strategic planning process and capital budgeting? Is this relationship as applicable to all levels of government?

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Which of the strategies that have been developed for the private sector hold the greatest potential to help public managers?