banner image

Guidelines for MPP Essay

The MPP Essay is required of all MPP students. The student will be judged on how well her or his paper addresses these four goals:

  1. Illustrate an in depth, detailed and nuanced understanding of a specific issue, topic or question in the field;
  2. Illustrate an awareness of the theoretical issues and arguments raised and discussed in the literature on the subject;
  3. Express the ideas, concepts and arguments advanced in the paper with precision and rigor;
  4. Enlarge the reader's understanding of the issue and topic.

The MPP Essay should strive to be equivalent in content, sophistication and technical expertise to a publishable paper in a respected scholarly journal. The MPP Essay can be on any subject in public policy, as agreed upon by your committee. There are no limitations or preferences for a particular theoretical or methodological approach. It should be 30 to 60 pages in length. Previous MPP Essays are available for review at this website under "Research."

The first draft of the MPP Essay should be given to all committee members for review at least six weeks prior to the defense date.

To achieve the goals at the minimum, the MPP Essay needs to have a(n):

Title and Signature Page. The MPP Essay needs a title page and a committee signature page similar to requirements for Theses and Dissertations at OSU.  However, the signature page only has your three committee members names included. [Example: titlepage.pdf]

Abstract. The MPP Essay should have a 250 word or less abstract that succinctly describes the topic and general findings. 

Introduction and Statement of the Problem. The MPP Essay needs to have a clearly and precisely stated question, essay and argument. The first couple pages should clarify the topic and how the subject will be approached and analyzed.

Literature Review. The MPP Essay needs an extensive literature review of the subject. Few of us think anything that is brand new and we need to acknowledge our intellectual debts. The literature review shows that you have immersed yourself in the subject, have read extensively about it, and have drawn your ideas, concepts and arguments from a variety of sources. The length of the literature review will vary by subject. If you do a theoretical MPP Essay or one based on secondary sources, then the review will have to be quite extensive since your argument refashions existing thoughts and theory. If you are doing an empirical project, the literature review needs to incorporate the important relevant thinking and studies which influence the design of your research, your hypothesizing and theory development, and the likely analysis of your data. The main purposes of the literature review are to show the reader that you know the subject and that you can place your thinking into ongoing theorizing and research in the subject area. 

Methods. How did you collect data/observations to test hypotheses and/or support your theoretical argument(s)? Discuss samples, populations, potential bias, etc.

Discussion. This section states and justifies the body of your description, analysis, and argument in a precise, readable and rigorous manner.

Conclusion. This summarizes your argument and shows how your work enhances our theoretical understanding of the subject.

Think ahead to the oral defense of your MPP Essay and prepare for challenges to your essay statement. To help you prepare, your committee will point out strengths and weaknesses of the MPP Essay before you get to the oral defense stage. All committee members must provide feedback before scheduling your final defense. Students should not schedule a final MPP Essay defense until all committee members are satisfied with the quality of the MPP Essay.

The MPP Essay will not be the last word on the subject it will be your critical thoughts and expertise on the subject at the time you defend it. It is a stage in your intellectual development. You may change your thinking about your subject as will the committee members who read and critique it. The MPP Essay will be scholarly, theoretically sound, empirically solid, and defensible.

A useful writing guide for the MPP Essay is:

Please submit two hard copies of your essay (for binding; 25% cotton bond paper) and an electronic copy to be posted in the Valley Library thesis/dissertation collection (please provide all to the MPP Director). All students will receive a bound copy of their essay courtesy of the program.

Information and forms for final exam scheduling are available in the Graduate School's Survival Guide at: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/grad_school/current/finalexams.html.