Prior to graduation, each MCP candidate has the option of submitting and receiving faculty approval for a professional or academic paper that is well organized, logically argued, uses evidence appropriately, and shows a command of the English language. This paper should be strong enough to warrant publication in an academic or professional publication and should show potential employers what the student is capable of. For this purpose, a student may submit a paper written specifically for this purpose, or a rewrite of a paper done for another course, or a paper written as independent study, or a paper based on work done during an internship, or job, or a community planning studio. The final paper must be the student’s individual and original work.
Papers may be directed at educators and scholars (“academic papers”), or at practicing planners and the interested public (“professional papers”). In academic papers the emphasis should be on contributing to theory and knowledge; appropriate methods include data collection and analysis, the systematic observation of activities or attitudes, and a critical review of current theory. In professional papers the emphasis should be on providing information and models that planners can apply in practice; appropriate methods include case histories and comparisons, and reviews of the nature, origin, purpose, effectiveness and consequences of particular applications or programs. Both types of papers must display a solid knowledge of relevant material in the courses of the graduate program.
The final paper should be 20-40 double-spaced pages with 12 point type and one-inch margins. It should include a brief abstract. It should follow conventions of style and organization required for articles in academic publications such as the Journal of the American Planning Association or the Journal of Planning Education and Research, or in professional publications such as Planning magazine and reports published by reputable planning agencies.
In all cases, students should demonstrate an ability to think critically and analytically, and to write clearly and concisely. As to content, the paper should:
• Define the problem or issue and indicate why it is important.
• Place the problem or issue within the context of theory and/or current discourse.
• Show familiarity with available information, the state of knowledge, and previous studies on the topic. • Explain the methodology used.
• Spell out implications for planning theory and/or practice.
• Indicate the limitations of the paper and suggest follow-up research.
During the first year: The student should discuss possible topics with his/her mentor.
In the semester prior to the one in which the student plans to graduate: Inform his/her mentor, in writing, of the topic of the paper. Include a brief outline, and indicate potential sources of information.
Three months before graduation (see dates under Deadlines): Submit completed draft to his/her mentor. The mentor will review the manuscript and may approve it, approve with changes, or require extensive additional work. The student is responsible for making needed revisions by the final deadline.
One month before graduation (see dates under Deadlines): Submit the completed final paper.
At any point in the review process the mentor has the option of giving the paper to another faculty member for review. However, it is the mentor who makes the final approval/disapproval decision, which (if negative) can be appealed to the full faculty.
For December graduation, a student should submit a final draft of the paper to her/his mentor by the end of September. This will enable the mentor to provide the student with feedback and allow sufficient time for revisions. The final, revised paper is due to the mentor by the Monday prior to the Thanksgiving break.
For Spring graduation, the final draft should be submitted to the mentor by the end of February, and the revised draft by the third Monday in April.
For Summer graduation, the final draft should be submitted to the mentor by the end of May, and the revised draft by the second Monday in July.
A student who does not meet the deadlines in an appropriately substantive manner may be denied graduation in the semester in question.
In writing and submitting final papers, students are held accountable to the University of Maryland's Code of Academic Integrity. The code includes sanctions against fabrication and plagiarism. According to the code, fabrication is "intentional and unauthorized falsification or invention of any information or citation in an academic exercise". Plagiarism is "intentionally or knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one's own in an academic exercise". Students who are suspected of fabrication and/or plagiarism in writing their final paper are subject to the University's formal review procedures for cases of alleged academic dishonesty.