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.

2 minute read

April 29, 2008, 2:08 PM PDT

By Ann Forsyth

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
. 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
    : margins, heading styles, fonts. If there isn't a style sheet in
    existence use a book like Turabian's Craft of Research
    or 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
  • 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

Trained in planning and architecture, Ann Forsyth is a professor of urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. From 2007-2012 she was a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell. She taught previously at at the University of Minnesota, directing the Metropolitan Design Center (2002-2007), Harvard (1999-2002), and the University of Massachusetts (1993-1999) where she was co-director of a small community design center, the Urban Places Project. She has held short-term positions at Columbia, Macquarie, and Sydney Universities.

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