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.
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?
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.
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:
How useful is planning scholarship to planners in practice? Thirty years ago, the author of a British study of information use by planners found, "The journal is not a source of major importance to the planner in practice, though this statement must be taken to reflect inadequate privision and inadequate timeing for reading" (White, 1974). Perspectives differ, but at least some of the problem has been the difficulty of finding relevant scholarship at the moment it is needed. I believe that these difficulties have greatly reduced in the past few years, and that we are on the verge of an unprecedently increase in the use of scholarship in practice fueled by online bibliographic searching and retrieval. From both the scholar's and the practitioner's perspectives, this change will have substantial effects.