Analyses of the process of policy formation. It is, ultimately, difficult to distinguish the study of policy from that of politics, since there can be no politics without policy. Indeed, the French politique covers both, la vie politique meaning roughly what anglophones call politics, and la politique publique meaning policy. Only in the 1960s was any distinction made between the studies of politics and policy, in the belief that the understanding of policy outcomes required a more detailed analysis of the process of policy formation than was usually attempted by academic students of politics.
It is useful to distinguish two assumptions of policy studies, the normative and the analytical. Normative policy studies constitute a very broad church, stretching well beyond the confines of the study of politics: economists, operational researchers, organizational theorists, and public administrators are all involved in critical accounts of how policy is made and how the processes could be improved. The normative study of the making of policy overlaps into studies of policy evaluation and policy implementation which tend to be well funded by governments.
Analytic policy studies are largely confined to the discipline of politics per se. They seek to develop models and explanations of the policy process and the variety of methods employed can approach that of the study of politics as a whole. Public choice theory and several kinds of comparative approach offer rival insights into policy‐making, while some neo‐behavioural approaches which seek to explain policy outcomes in terms of general features of the political system, make policy studies difficult to distinguish from the study of political systems.