Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Comparative Policy Analysis
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Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Comparative Policy Analysis

Edited by B. Guy Peters and Guillaume Fontaine

Public policy research has become increasingly comparative over the past several decades, but the methodological issues involved in this research have not been discussed adequately. This Handbook provides a discussion of the fundamental methodological issues in comparative policy research, as well as descriptions and analyses of major techniques used for that research. The techniques discussed are both quantitative and qualitative, and all are embedded in the broader discussion of comparative research design.
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Chapter 5: Comparing policy processes: insights and lessons from the Advocacy Coalition Framework research program

Daniel Nohrstedt, Christopher M. Weible, Karin Ingold and Adam D. Henry

Abstract

The Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) represents one of the most influential and widely used frameworks of the policy process. This chapter introduces the concepts and assumptions of the ACF and describes how the framework can support comparative public policy research across countries and contexts. The chapter depicts the ACF as a research programme which provides a basis for continuous implicit comparison based on common concepts and hypotheses as well as explicit comparison through systematic within-case and across case-comparison. These comparative efforts are targeted at the core areas of theoretical emphases within the ACF, including advocacy coalitions, policy-oriented learning, and policy change. Based on a review of previous applications of the ACF from around the world, the chapter discusses areas of progress related to the comparative research agenda within the ACF and identifies issues and questions where more work is needed to advance this research agenda further. Several aspects of the ACF have been important in supporting comparative perspectives of the policy process, including descriptions of the nature and evolution of policy subsystems, conceptual development to account for similarities and differences in the attributes of policy subsystems, and testing of hypotheses about coalitions, learning, and policy change. The chapter concludes by outlining five suggestions for further advancing comparative policy process research within the ACF: thinking about concrete subsets of cases, maintaining conceptual consistency, sharing of best practices for overcoming barriers to comparison across cases, identifying key attributes of political systems shaping policy subsystems, and taking inspiration from other fields.

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