This course teaches students to conduct a systematic exploratory analysis for complex policy
problems in a multi-actor environment. The goal of such an exploratory analysis is to develop a better understanding of the various dimensions involved in a complex problem, based on which an agenda for meaningful further in-depth analysis activities can be developed.
The course consists of a part containing methods and applications, and a part containing theory to provide insight into the capabilities and limitations of policy analyses within a multi-actor process.
Upon successful completion of the course, the student is able to structure complex policy problems and set up an agenda for meaningful subsequent analysis. More specifically, a student who has completed the module is now able to:

Write an issue paper containing the results of a broad exploratory problem analysis, resulting
in a proposition for meaningful subsequent policy research;
Apply three types of methods for rational-analytical problem exploration to an existing
problem at the interface of technology, society and public policy, in a meaningful and coherent fashion:

  • System analysis, including an initial problem demarcation
  • Actor analysis
  • Future exploration

Set up an agenda for meaningful subsequent research activities that help to inform policy decisions, based on previous problem exploration, using quantitative methods for systems engineering and policy analysis that are taught in other modules of the curriculum;
Reflect on the possible roles of a policy analyst and argue which role(s) a policy analyst can meaningfully fulfill in certain situations, in support of an existing problem owner facing a complex policy problem.

Methods and examination
This course consists of a theoretical component as well as an applied component focused on the use
of methods for conceptual analysis. The focus is on the latter. The applied part consists of executing
several analyses of a complex problem, in which the multi-actor complexity plays a particularly
important part. The theory-component is made up of theories that reflect on the use of policy
analysis in policy processes, along with more in-depth and broadening material regarding the specific
methods and techniques of analyses.

Method: Self-study and Assignments
This course uses online tutorials to complement literature. These tutorials function as a replacement
of regular lectures. Use of the online content is coupled to assignments that provide the building
blocks needed for writing an issue paper (IP). Roughly speaking, one assignment is coupled to each
tutorial. Students can check their understanding of a tutorial, by taking a short ‘self-test’, consisting of a limited
number of multiple-choice questions. To test the understanding of the complete set of
course materials, an exam is available online,together with an elaboration of the answers.
You can also take a look here!

Creative Commons License
Problem Structuring Methods by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at
Back to top