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Photos of student research in class and in the field

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Student Projects

Master of Public Policy (MPP)

Master's Projects

In their second year, MPP students complete a Master's Project, required for their degree. Two types of projects are possible. A client-focused project involves a variety of methodological approaches, addresses a policy problem, and recommends a specific course of action to resolve it. The project must meet standards of good analysis, including precise definition of the problem, assemblage and careful evaluation of the relevant evidence, identification of important trade-offs, and clear presentation of the conclusions and recommendations.

A second type of Master's Project employs quantitative methods and may or may not have a client. A quantitative MP focuses on assembling and analyzing data to address a question of relevance to a substantive area of policy. The quantitative project puts more emphasis on the quality and interpretation of the data analysis than on the broader range of political and ethical issues that arise in making specific policy recommendations.

A few recent examples of MPs:

Spring Consulting Projects

The Sanford School’s first-year Master of Public Policy (MPP) students work in teams during the spring semester to complete research and consulting projects for local, state, national and international clients. Clients have included government agencies and nonprofits, such as the N.C. Highway Patrol, Ten Thousand Villages, the Triangle Transit Authority and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

PhD in Public Policy

All PhD students conduct original research. Please visit their web pages to learn about their work.

Undergraduate Research

Duke undergraduates are encouraged to conduct original research and have many options for pursuing it, including Bass Connections. a major campuswide initiative that creates interdisciplinary faculty and student teams to conduct research in five broad areas: energy, global health, education and human development, brain and society, and information, society and culture.

Public policy majors also can choose to conduct original research through the Sanford School's undergraduate Honors Program. Learn more about the Honors Program.

Spotlight: Students Tackle One Town's Trash Troubles

Students from PubPol 830.05 Behavioral Economics for Municipal Policy helped the town of Fayetteville, NC. The town's garbage trucks have side-arm loaders, and pickup should be relatively simple. But the garbage cans need to be placed on the curb in a specific way in order for the process to work effectively. Students proposed and tested potential solutions. The class was taught by  Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke professor of psychology and behavioral economics.