Finishing the Exit Project in Planning

Ann Forsyth's picture

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. This post concludes this series by providing advice on getting done-not the last-minute troubleshooting issues dealt within one of the earlier posts-but the big steps that will help you get done on time.

  • Write a proposal-without it you'll flounder.
  • Make a timeline and negotiate key deadlines with your committee-they may even have a draft ready. For instance, Bruce Stiftel of Florida State provides standard milestones for students. Allow time for comments and revisions. Don't underestimate the time to create illustrations and do final formatting. Stick to your timeline and if you need to depart from it, let your committee know ahead of time.
  • Find the university style sheet or create your own. There are often two parts. One will deal with text: punctuation, capitalization of words, reference formats, and related issues. The other will deal with layout: margins, heading styles, fonts. If there isn't a style sheet in existence use a book like Turabian's Craft of Research for the text styles. Copy a book or report you find attractive for the layout style. This is an important document-sticking to a style can save lots and lots of time.
  • Take notes carefully-I use a template that records the methods used, place studied, and key topics for each reading and that also notes page numbers. This is a great help later.
  • While not absolutely necessary, I've found over the years that keeping notes about what I do helps reconstruct decisions later. I keep such a log every day.
  • Unless you really, really need to travel or buy a large data set you don't need to get grants for masters-level projects in planning. It isn't expected and it can take a lot of time.
  • Many people have not managed a 100+ page document-if you are one of those folks, look for classes on how to use your word processing program effectively to deal with pagination, sections, paragraph styles, tables, charts, graphs, and images. There are many simple short cuts and I notice that too few students use them.

Remember, getting finished is an important step on your path to being a planner. Doing it as efficiently as possible will enable you to start making a difference in the world all the sooner.

Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.



As a final year undergrad

As a final year undergrad student this definitely helped to ease my fears for the coming semester....This was very helpful. Thanks Ann. Keep it up! :-D

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