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This article is about government action. Policy, both public and private, is a broader notion, and public policy discusses the use of the phrase "public policy" in legal doctrine.
Public policy can be generally defined as the course of action or inaction taken by governmental entities (the decisions of government) with regard to a particular issue or set of issues. Other scholars define it as a system of "courses of action, regulatory measures, laws, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives." Public policy is commonly embodied "in constitutions, legislative acts, and judicial decisions."

In the United Statesmarker, this concept refers not only to the end result of policies, but more broadly to the decision-making and analysis of governmental decisions. Public policy is also considered an academic discipline, as it is studied by professors and students at public policy schools of major universities throughout the country. The professional association of public policy practitioners, researchers, scholars, and students is the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Government action

Shaping public policy is a complex and multifaceted process that involves the interplay of numerous individuals and interest groups competing and collaborating to influence policymakers to act in a particular way. These individuals and groups use a variety of tactics and tools to advance their aims, including advocating their positions publicly, attempting to educate supporters and opponents, and mobilizing allies on a particular issue.

In this context, advocacy can be defined as attempting to influence public policy through education, lobbying, or political pressure. Advocacy groups "often attempt to educate the general public as well as public policy makers about the nature of problems, what legislation is needed to address problems, and the funding required to provide services or conduct research. Although advocacy is viewed as unseemly by some in the professional and research community, it is clear that public policy priorities are influenced by advocacy. Sound research data can be used to educate the public as well as policy makers, thereby improving the public policy process."

As an academic discipline

As an academic discipline, public policy brings in elements of many social science fields and concepts, including economics, sociology, political economy, program evaluation, policy analysis, and public management, all as applied to problems of governmental administration, management, and operations. At the same time, the study of public policy is distinct from political science or economics, in its focus on the application of theory to practice. While the majority of public policy degrees are master's and doctoral degrees, several universities also offer undergraduate education in public policy.

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