The Theory-Practice Issue in Policy Implementation Research

Laurence J. O'Toole

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    99 Citations (Scopus)


    Applying implementation theory to practice has been rare. Reasons include the difficulty of the theoretical challenge, the varied needs of practitioners and the complicating normative issues at stake. Nonetheless, several approaches can contribute to the efficacy of implementation action. Building on points of theoretical consensus is one strategy. A second is the systematic probing of points in theoretical dispute, to sketch out practical implications. A third is the development of a contingency perspective to determine which theoretical strands may be appropriate in a given case. Finally, tapping the emerging ideas built on a synthesis of partial perspectives is ultimately likely to be the most useful approach. New methodological tools can help select out valid high-performing instances for systematic inspection and possible emulation. And some of the synthetic perspectives now available are amenable to heuristic application; these include approaches based upon reversible logic, game-theoretic notions and contextual interaction theory.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)309-329
    JournalPublic administration
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • IR-49383
    • METIS-221665

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