Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.
Terrorized by the literature is the title of a chapter of Howard Becker’s excellent book, Writing for Social Scientists (1986, Chicago). Whether through terror or misunderstanding, the literature review is one of the areas that students in planning find most confusing. While I have dealt with the literature review briefly in my blog on writing proposals, the tips below provide more detailed advice on how to compose a literature review and how to find important literature in the age of information overload.
Saturday, December 20, 2008 - 7:34pm PST
With the return to prominence of physical planning and
increasing use of GIS, planning students are becoming interested in developing
portfolios of their work. This blog entry provides tips for this process exploring why
portfolios are useful, who they are aimed at, and how to design the portfolio.
It provides many of the resources needed to design your own!
Sunday, November 30, 2008 - 3:20pm PST
Recently I’ve been writing about skills that
planners need—the findings from surveys of employers and the key role or writing in the
planning skill set. Skills like writing, graphics, data analysis, and the
ability to listen are obviously important. As Ethan Seltzer and Connie Ozawa
’s 2002 survey found, however, several more general
skills are also key. I reported these in an earlier blog and they include:
working well with the public and with colleagues,
being a self-starter, being able to finish work on time and on budget, and
understanding public needs.
Saturday, November 1, 2008 - 7:49am PDT
What do planners do? Last month I highlighted the findingsof several surveys of planners aiming to identify core skills for theworkplace. They highlight the importance of skills in communication,information analysis and synthesis, political savvy, and basic workplacecompetencies and attitudes. In all these surveys, however, the ability to writewell is at or near the top.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 - 12:02pm PDT
At the beginning of semester students are signing up for
classes and planning their degrees. Lately, a question I have been asked quite
frequently is which classes will make new planners most employable? Students
ask if computer aided design or GIS will be key. However, surveys of planning
practitioners show that a far more basic set of skills is important—skills in communication,
information analysis and synthesis, political savvy, and basic workplace competencies
Below, I highlight three of these studies from across three decades:
Sunday, August 31, 2008 - 8:19am PDT
Visual communication is becoming more sophisticated in
planning, however many online image sources are restricted and require payment for use. Others,
such as flikr.com and Google Images are extremely useful but have uneven quality
and information provided about the images can be difficult to assess. While flckr.com and Google Images will remain a key resource, a
number of other online image databases provide more consistent metadata along with free access.
Thursday, July 31, 2008 - 8:40am PDT
Lastmonth’s blog outlined how to find books recommended by many planners—important,classic, or accessible.
However,summer is also a time to push your viewpoint a bit further. For those wantingreadings that might push you tothink differently about planning, the following lists are useful startingpoints. (And a note to planners—we need more of these lists reflecting different placesand people and issues!)
Sunday, June 29, 2008 - 2:14pm PDT
As the northern summer starts, one of the questions I am
asked most frequently by current and prospective planning students is: what
should I read? A number of resources are available to answer this question. This
month I look at general planning readings for a North American audience but in
coming months I’ll explore readings about global planning issues, planning
methods, and planning classics.
For those wanting an overview of planning issues, the
following lists are good places to start:
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 7:22am PDT
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 - 2:08pm PDT
Completing any type of academic exit project in planning school requires
more than writing a proposal and executing it. It also involves assembling and then
managing a committee. “Managing up” involves working with your committee to
achieve what is important to you while also doing what they see as essential.
It is a vital part of the exit project and terrific preparation for later life.
Those who don’t learn to manage up are doomed to frustration. They likely will
spend extra time making revisions that could have been avoided. Even those who
are skipping the thesis in favor of a group capstone workshop or studio will
need some skills in managing faculty advisors.
Monday, March 31, 2008 - 4:34pm PDT