Ann Forsyth's blog

Defining the Planning Skill Set: Resources for Students

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 and attitudes.

Below, I highlight three of these studies from across three decades:

Images for Planning: Free Internet Resources

Visual communication is becoming more sophisticated in planning, however many online image sources are restricted and require payment for use. Others, such as and Google Images are extremely useful but have uneven quality and information provided about the images can be difficult to assess. While and Google Images will remain a key resource, a number of other online image databases provide more consistent metadata along with free access.

Reflecting on Planning and the Planet: Summer Readings that Help You Think

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!)

Summer Reading about Planning: The Basics

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:

Managing Up: Your Thesis or Project Committee as a Trial Run for the World of Work in Planning

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.

Common Problems with Proposals for the Exit Project or Thesis in Planning

In January I explored what kind of exit paper or project students of planning should prepare, why they should write such papers, and when. This month I turn to the proposal, examining key issues any proposal writer needs to consider. As I outline below, the parts of the proposal are fairly standard. However, three areas typically trip up students working on exit projects: identifying the audience(s), framing the question, and reviewing the literature.

Getting Started on an Exit Project or Thesis in Planning

My December blog dealt with key problems faced by those heading for an end-of-school-year graduation—completing a proposal, choosing methods, starting to write, and dealing with formatting. This month I step back and ask some bigger questions: what kind of exit paper or project you should prepare, why, and when?

Resolving to Graduate on Time: Troubleshooting Your Urban Planning Exit Project or Thesis

For students facing the end of their masters programs, an individual exit project, paper, or thesis is often part of the final semester. Over the years I’ve watched many very competent students struggle with this process and delay graduation for years because they could not complete their thesis or project “book”. Over the following months I am going to focus on the various parts of the process of writing these documents—from literature reviews and research questions to time management and creating informative illustrations. To help those currently near the end, in this entry I focus on key trouble spots for those a few months from graduation.

Finding Planning Scholarship for Free: Articles with Open Access or Partly-Open Access

Online versions of journals have made quick inroads at universities. However, subscriptions are expensive and those outside universities seldom have access. A new generation of open access journals is making planning research accessible beyond the campus.

Some examples illustrate the range of material now available. Some are fully accessible and some are partially open to non-subscribers: