Mapping the Knowledge Domain of Urban Planning

22 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2015

See all articles by Thomas W. Sanchez

Thomas W. Sanchez

Virginia Tech

Nader Afzalan

University of Colorado at Boulder

Date Written: February 12, 2015


The field of urban planning is far reaching in breadth and depth. This is due to the complex nature of cities, regions, and associated development patterns. Referring to the ambitious field of planning, Aaron Wildavsky famously remarked, “If planning is everything, maybe it’s nothing” (Wildavsky, 1973). Is planning everything? And what does that mean for someone trying to learn about planning? Using the recent Guide to Undergraduate and Graduate Education in Urban and Regional Planning (20th Edition, dated 2013) published by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, we examined the knowledge domain of planning by analyzing the areas of expertise and interests for over 900 regular faculty listed in the Guide. These are self-reported areas of teaching and research interests that can be used to characterize specializations within urban planning programs. Rather than just reporting the frequency of topics mentioned across planning faculty, network analysis was used to illustrate the range and interconnections between topics. The specializations identified are explored and are compared to those identified by the planning profession. The results can be used in university program materials to help convey what planners do along with highlighting the current topics being considered academically and professionally. In addition, it is hoped that the results can be used to reinvigorate a conversation about planning scholarship and practice.

Keywords: urban, planning, knowledge, domains

Suggested Citation

Sanchez, Thomas W. and Afzalan, Nader, Mapping the Knowledge Domain of Urban Planning (February 12, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas W. Sanchez (Contact Author)

Virginia Tech ( email )

900 N Glebe Rd
Arlington, VA 22203
United States


Nader Afzalan

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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