PUAD 432 Final Case Analysis Paper and Presentation Guidelines

Your final project in this class is a final case analysis intended to help you demonstrate your ability to integrate principles of ethical decision-making in the public sector.  By using the concepts we have studied in this course to analyze a real-world example, you are expected to find and present an analysis of a case containing an ethics dilemma from the field of public administration or non-profit management.  Your analysis should demonstrate solid knowledge of ethical concepts learned during the class, as well as the ability to use the ethics literature for analyzing ethics issues and supporting your arguments.

This final project should be completed as an individual effort.  Using other people’s ideas and concepts covered during class is permissible, as long as you give credit to the source.



A well-written case analysis will engage the ethical frameworks and historic traditions discussed in class, as well as key ethics concepts such as traditional public administration values; the public and public interest; ethical leadership and integrity; professional ethical standards; individual responsibility; etc.  In addition, a good paper will include your personal judgment of the situation and your recommendations regarding the most ethically appropriate course of action.

Grades for the final paper will reflect the quality of your analysis and writing, and will be based on your performance within the following categories:

ü  Clarity of thesis and overall quality

ü  Concept development and completeness

ü  Critical thinking and application

ü  Sources, evidence and bibliography

ü  Professional language, format and style

You are required to submit a one-page proposal for your final case analysis on November 7 via Blackboard before class.

Steps to Writing a Successful Case Analysis

A. Identify a Case

Identify a real-life (not hypothetical) case containing an ethics dilemma in public administration or non-profit management:

  • The case should involve a meaningful ethical dilemma, and there should be several probable alternatives/solutions. Choose a situation in which the ethical dilemma is clearly identifiable.  If situation is highly complex or involves a number of players, consider examining only limited aspects of the situation.
  • You may choose a case which involves any level of government – local, state, or federal – or non-profit management. You may also choose an international case involving public administration or non-profit management, as long as your paper provides sufficient background to understand the case.
  • You may choose a case that involves a public organization in which you currently work or worked in the past, as long as you were not personally involved in the situation. Please provide sufficient background information about the case and its circumstances.
  • The case may cover one of the topics discussed in class (leadership and integrity, whistle blowing, ethics of dissent and guerilla government, street-level bureaucracy, non-profit management, privatization) or an approved topic of your choice.
  • The case can involve a current or historical issue.
  • You may not choose a case that has already been analyzed in our class or literature. The analysis must be your original work. 

B. Research the Issue:

Your case analysis should be based on facts, not conjecture or mere assumptions. You must take appropriate steps to learn about the issue.

The sources of information about a case may include:

–          Newspapers and electronic media

–          Library materials (including electronic resources)

–          Web sites of relevant professional organizations (ASPA, ICMA, etc.)

–          Scholarly journals or articles

–          Interviews with people involved in a case (least preferred option)


Please include appropriate references of the sources used for the case analysis in your final paper.

C. Analyze the Case

Use the analytical frameworks and decision-making tools from this course to analyze the ethical issue facing a public administrator or a public organization in the case, and suggest the most ethical decision/course of action. Be attentive to how these issues and your recommendations relate to notions of the public interest and public values. Please, reference the source of the approaches you use.

Your case analysis at a minimum should include:

  • General description of the case, key actors, ethics issue involved, and groups of public affected.
  • Consideration of objective responsibilities (e.g., To whom was the public administrator being held accountable? What was the public administrator obligated to do?  Were there any laws, policies, or regulations involved?) or subjective responsibilities, if known.
  • The application of Terry Cooper’s Prescriptive Decision-Making Model to your ethical thinking and decision making process.
  • The application of at least one of the major historical traditions of ethical thinking (teleology, deontology, virtue theory and intuitionism) to evaluating potential courses of action.
  • Your recommended ethical decision/course of actions. Your recommendation should be clear and logical. You should develop a structured argument or several arguments explaining why you made a particular ethical choice. (Remember that this is not a narrative.  Recommendations should be written using a professional tone/voice.)
  • Assessment of the extent to which decisions or actions recommended promise to be effective or were effective.

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