Uncovering JAPA

Does JAPA Publish Articles on Methods? (Nerd Alert: Technical Details)

A question I am often asked by people seeking to submit to the Journal of the American Planning Association is: Does the journal publish methods papers? The short answer is yes, but not all types.

JAPA's Research Methods

JAPA is well known for articles assessing methods used in planning practice.

There are numerous papers evaluating plans, assessing regulations, and critiquing planning processes. Examples are articles assessing the transfer of development rights programs, evaluating plan quality for resilience, or examining participatory budgeting processes. A related type helps planners use common methods better, for example, understanding and communicating statistical uncertainty in the American Community Survey. JAPA is full of such papers.

JAPA also publishes proposals for new or refined methods in planning practice.

To be published in JAPA such papers need to do more than describe a method. Typically such papers compare a new method with others, evaluate its success, or draw on theory to refine an approach. A 2018 paper looked at using photography linked to GIS in disaster recovery finding the new method was more accurate than existing ones. More are slated for upcoming issues using a range of techniques.

What authors often mean by methods articles are not planning methods, but articles focusing on research methods.

There are fewer of these research methods papers in JAPA. JAPA reviewers seem to particularly dislike papers whose main point is to say "My methods are better than your methods," especially when the methods are used by only a few researchers. Articles outlining how to create a dataset without analyzing the data can also find a better home than JAPA.

JAPA publishes papers on research methods related to important planning topics and common types of planning research activity.

An article to be published in the future examines the reliability (repeatability) and validity (truthfulness) of surveys about land use. It finds surveys asking planners about their overall opinions of land use regulations are as accurate as those asking for a detailed accounting of numbers of regulations. Certainly, more of this kind of paper could be published in JAPA.

Also relevant for JAPA are papers looking at methods on the boundary between research and practice.

Examples include scenario planning, and big data as it is used in planning models or qualitative methods. Papers on these kinds of topics are in the review process at present.

Finally, while I have been talking about standard articles, literature review essays, and shorter viewpoints can also cover methods.

Top image: Covers of JAPA Volume 85, No. 2.

Headshot of Ann Forsyth.
About the Author
Ann Forsyth is editor of the Journal of the American Planning Association and the Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.

July 18, 2019

By Ann Forsyth