Ann Forsyth's blog

Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.
Ann Forsyth's picture
Blogger

Skills in Planning: Writing Literature Reviews

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. 

Skills in Planning: The Planning Portfolio

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!

Skills in Planning: The Time vs. Quality Opportunity Curve

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.

Communication: Online Advice about Writing for Planners

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.

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 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.

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:

Finishing the Exit Project in Planning

My recent posts have provided advice on the exit project or thesis in planning: how to get started, write a proposal, manage one’s committee, and troubleshoot problems.

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.

Pages