Theories and Research Methods for Public Administrations

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
As part of the interdisciplinary training of our Public Policies and Administration Post graduate Course, this teaching is aimed at giving analytical, both theoretical and methodological, knowledge and skills, for the analysis of decision making of Public Administrations, understood as complex organizations, and for the conception, design, implementation of research/intervention activities within the state bureaucracies. Starting from a theoretical framework given by Social theory (with particular reference to rational choice theory, economic analysis of organizations, neo-institutionalist theories and theories of power), those knowledge and skills will be introduced and declined with respect to the characteristics of some relevant public administrative systems (USA, Germany, France, UK, Italy). In the second part of the course, we will focus on some of the main techniques of quantitative data analysis: using case studies we will try to highlight the salience of those techniques for the purposes of the research and intervention activities that are intended to be carried out in the context of public administrations, at different levels, both national and local.
Expected learning outcomes
- Knowledge and Understanding: at the end of the course, the student will have got a set of analytical skills, both theoretical and methodological, related to decision making and to the design and execution of research/intervention activities in Public Administration.
In a theoretical perspective, these skills will be part of an ideal toolkit for interpreting the functioning, for diagnosing the main dysfunctions, as well as for acting possibile interventions aimed at improving the performance, of the Public Administration as complex organization..
- Applying Knowledge and Learning Skills: those skills should allow the student to autonomously proceed with the organizational analysis of sector, offices and activities of the Public Administration, as well as the design of research/intervention actions aimed at improving their organizational and policy performance.
- Communication Skills: through the discussion of case studies, the student should learn to design, organize, carry out and evaluate a research/intervention action for the Public Administration, in many and different sectors and offices, as well as to communicate the results of those activities to interlocutors of various kinds, specialists and non-specialists ones.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second trimester
The lessons will be held on the Microsoft Teams platform and can be followed both synchronously, based on the ordinary lesson schedule, and asynchronously, as they will remain available to students on the same platform. Further teaching materials, to compensate the impossibility of holding lessons in person, will be available on the ARIEL platform.

Program and reference
The program and reference will not change.

Learning evaluation procedures and assessment criteria
The exam will take place in oral form, using the Microsoft Teams platform.
Course syllabus
The program consists of two Teaching Units (a-b), each of twenty hours.

Teaching Program - Unit (a)
The first Unit, with an introductory character, is devoted to the introduction of the toolkit for the analysis of Public Administration as a complex organization. After a description of the study object, that is the Public Administration as a central organization of the public sector, which uses technologies and human resources for the production of public policies, the evolution of the Italian administration will be framed starting from a brief historical excursus. Subsequently, the main paradigms of organizational analysis useful for understanding public bureaucracies as complex organizations will be illustrated. Finally, we will examine the new paradigms of administrative organization that have informed and are still influencing the main changes taking place in the Public Administration, with particular reference to the Italian one.

Unit (a) - Topics
1. Public Administration and Public sector. The Public sector in a mixed economy society: different view points on the role of the State. The balance between Public and private sectors. Public sector size and public policies making: financial dimension and economic impact of public policies on the State budget. Performance budgeting and spending programs. The public sector and public spending in Italy.
2. The historical evolution of the Italian Public Administration. From the unification of Italy to the end of the Nineteenth century. Giolitti's Age and the administrative take-off of the Thirties. The Italian Public Administration during the "Republic of parties". From the Seventies to the crisis of the First Republic. The incomplete transition from First to Second Republic: from the attempts of systemic reform (Giannini, Cassese, Bassanini) to the Brunetta's (2009) and Madia's (2015) reforms.
3. Organizational analysis of the Public Administration: concepts and methods. Public bureaucracy as a rational organization: hierarchical line and Weberian bureaucratic ideatype. Organizations as systems: the relationship with the environment and the internal interaction system. The institutionalist approach: stability and change, power and heterogenesis of the ends. The economic analysis of organizations: transaction costs, agency theory, strategic behavior and opportunism of actors, game theory.
4. The new paradigms of administrative organization and the management of change. New Public Management and Public Governance. Stakeholder approach and accountability. Administrating in terms of multilevel governance. From the expansion to the crisis of the welfarist bureaucracies, up to a new "coming back" (the newfound role of the public sector in the face of the pandemic emergency). From legal norms to process regulation: incentives, weak paternalism and nudging. Towards a post-bureaucratic Public Administration.

Teaching Program - Unit (b)
The second Unit is devoted to a critical and reasoned introduction of the main research strategies, methodologies and techniques aimed at understanding the functioning of the Public Administration structures and processes. Firstly, we will illustrate the guiding principles relating to the conception, design and implementation of a research, concerning with the choice of the approach or mix of methods to be used (qualitative and / or quantitative) for its realization must also be made. Secondly, we will proceed with the examination of the main qualitative (interviews and focus group) and quantitative (for monovariate, bivariate and multivariate analysis) research techniques, showing their peculiarities and characteristics with respect to the specific objectives of the investigation to be carried out. Finally, we will examine the different strategies available for an effective presentation of the research results to a specialist or non-expert audience.

Unit (b) - Topics
1. Research design: conceiving, planning and making a research on Public Administration. Definition of research objectives, description of research hypothesis. Selection of research methods and techniques: qualitative vs quantitative or mix strategies. Research actions, research units and data collection.
2. Qualitative research: peculiarities and characteristics of the main survey techniques. The individual interview. Types of interview: structured, unstructured, semi-structured. The clinical interview for the reconstruction of organizational games, information asymmetries and opportunistic behaviors. The interview with privileged witnesses. Managing and analyzing the interviews. The focus group: different phases and analysis of the results. Presentation of the results.
3. Quantitative research: peculiarities and characteristics of the main survey techniques. The five phases of quantitative research: from concepts to the properties of the objects; operational definition and variable types. Surveys and types of surveys. Formulation and questionnaire delivery. Surveys with sampling.
4. Data analysis in quantitative research. Monovariate analysis: the description of the variables. Bivariate analysis: contingency tables and correlation. The analysis of variance and the simple regression model. The multivariate analysis, the multiple regression model and the logistic regression model. The discriminant analysis. Scaling, multi-dimensional scaling and cluster analysis. Presentation of the results.

As a corollary to Unit (b), a comparative research recently carried out using both qualitative and quantitative methods on the functioning of the SUAP (Desk for Productive Activities) will be presented and discussed.
Prerequisites for admission
A corse aimed at giving analytical, methodological and interpretative skills for knowledge, understanding and analysis of Public Administrations (as structures and processes).
After a primer introduction to the main models of organization theory, the course will be focused on the main research methods and techniques, both qualitative and quantitative ones, taking in exam their relevance, peculiarities and characteristics for the analysis of Public Administration.
Prerequisites for the course are a good knowledge of a few fundamental concepts of Mathematics and Statistics. Equally useful is the knowledge of the basic concepts of Politics (Political Science), many of which will essentially be taken for granted during teaching course.
Those students who lack these prerequisites are strongly recommended to preliminary look at of the following texts:
a) for Mathematics: L. Ricolfi, Matematica per le Scienze umane, Mondadori Università, Milano 2016.
b) for Statistics: M. Montinaro e G. Nicolini, Elementi di Statistica descrittiva, UTET, Torino 2007.
c) for Politics (Political Science): D. Caramani (a cura di), Scienza politica, Egea, Milano 2015 oppure G. Pasquino, Nuovo corso di Scienza politica, il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
Teaching methods
Frontal lessons (in presence, if - given the Covid-19 Emergency - the regulatory provisions will allow it, otherwise on remote by the Microsoft Teams platform), presentations by students, case studies, group discussions, also with the participation of testimonials from the political and institutional world. Teaching integration materials will be available on the teacher's personal blog and on ARIEL platform.

Expected learning outcomes:
A) Knowledge and Understanding: at the end of the course, the student will have got a set of analytical, methodological and interpretative skills useful for the study of Public Administration, its organizational structures and processes.
B) Applying Knowledge and Learning Skills: the gained knowledge should allow the student to autonomously proceed to the conception, planning and realization of both qualitative and quantitative research, aimed at organizations, offices and other public administrative systems.
C) Communication Skills: the presentation and discussion of case studies in the classroom, should allow the student learning to communicate the theoretical-methodological contents and the empirical results of research concerning the Public Administration to interlocutors of various kinds, specialists and non-specialists.
Teaching Resources
Unit (a):
- F. Girotti, Amministrazioni pubbliche. Una introduzione, Carocci, Roma 2013.
- G. Bonazzi, Come studiare le organizzazioni, il Mulino, Bologna 2006.
- G. Poggi, La burocrazia. Natura e patologie, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2013.

Unit (b):
- P. Natale, La ricerca sociale, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2007, capp. II, III e IV (compulsory).
- P. Corbetta, La ricerca sociale: metodologia e tecniche, vol. IV. L'analisi dei dati, Bologna 2003 (for consultation).
G. Johnson, Research Methods for Public Administrators. Third Edition, Routledge, London 2014 (suggested for further integration of the classroom lesson notes-available in digital format at the Faculty Library).

Recommended further readings on some topics of the course are the following:
a) Historical evolution of the Italian Public Administration:
- G. Melis, Storia dell'amministrazione italiana (1861-1993), il Mulino, Bologna 1996.
S. Sepe, Storia dell'amministrazione italiana (1861-2017), Editoriale scientifica, Napoli 2018.
S. Cassese, Governare gli italiani. Storia dello Stato, il Mulino, Bologna 2014.

b) Public sector from an economic perspective:
J.E. Stiglitz e J.K. Rosengard, Economia del settore pubblico. Fondazioni teoriche, spesa e imposte, Hoepli, Milano 2018.

c) Relationship between Public Administration and public policies, as well as Public sector economic performance with respect to policy making:
A. La Spina (a cura di), Politiche pubbliche. Analisi e valutazione, il Mulino, Bologna 2020.

d) Main policy branches of the Italian Public Administration:
G. Capano e E. Gualmini (a cura di), Le amministrazioni pubbliche in Italia, il Mulino, Bologna 2011.

e) Planning and managing organizational change:
G. Jones, Organizzazione. Teoria, progettazione, cambiamento, Egea, Milano 2012.
A. Hinna, Organizzazione e cambiamento nelle Pubbliche amministrazioni, Carocci, Roma 2014.

f) Economic analysis of organizations, transaction costs, agency theory, strategic behavior (game theory), information asymmetries and opportunistic behavior:
- D. Kreps, Microeconomia per manager, Egea, Milano 2005.
- B. Chiarini, Un mondo in conflitto. Teoria dei giochi applicata, Mondadori Università, Milano 2017.
- S. Hargreaves Heap, M. Hollis, B. Lyons, R. Sugden, A. Weale, La teoria della scelta. Una guida critica, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1996.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Written exam: multiple choice questions, questions with semi-open and free answers, tests and any numerical exercises.

Students who attend the course must take a mid-term written test and a final test, always in written form, at the end of the course on the remaining part of the program.
SPS/04 - POLITICAL SCIENCE - University credits: 6
Lessons: 40 hours
Students can contact the teacher by e-mail or by chat on Microsoft Teams to arrange for day and reception hours on line. Please indicate as e-mail subject: "Student reception: MEETING REQUEST". Prefer Microsoft Teams chat if my undergraduates or students
Room 313 - SPS Department of Social and Political Science, 3rd Floor. During Covid-19 Emergency only for my undergraduates and by previous appointment.