Watson Institute at Brown University
Public Policy

Guidelines for Capstone Public Policy Reflection Papers

The primary purpose of the Policy Concentration’s requirement that you write a paper reflecting on your experience as intern or research assistant is not for you to describe what you did, or even what you learned personally from doing it, though these will almost inevitably be important elements of your response. Instead, we want you to use your personal experience to reflect on how the work you did is situated in a larger, institutionalized process of producing knowledge, goods and/or services.

There is no one right way to do this. And how you approach the piece will be depend on both the kind of internship or research assistantship that you did, as well as your personal inclinations, taste, and style –all of which we encourage you to express. But beyond describing what you did and what it might or might not have taught you, we expect your capstone paper to consider your experience in light of broader institutional issues and relationships.

In thinking about these issues and relationships please consider the following types of indicative questions as well as how you might illustrate your answers to them from your work experience.

  • How would you define the primary objectives of the institution or research project that you were involved with? Did some of these objectives compete with each other, and if so how?
  • Do you think these objectives were clearly understood and shared by those who were working on them? If not why?
  • Within the institution or project you were involved with, did the way work was divided, organized, and compensated align with the institutions’ objectives and the characteristics of its staff?
  • To what degree was the way work was organized driven by the environment in which the institution or project operated and to what degree by its internal leadership and management?
  • How would you propose improving the way the organization related to its external environment and/or strengthened the linkages between its objectives and its internal organization?