The Department of Urban Planning’s focus on high-quality research is a crucial part of both its public service orientation and its educational mission. Master’s and doctoral students alike are expected to engage real-world problems through sophisticated research methods and analytical tools, and in the process contribute valuable knowledge to practitioners across the field. UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students are regularly recognized by national and international organizations for the quality and originality of their research.

Student Research

Master’s students are required to complete a capstone project as they earn their degree. These projects can take the form of a thesis, an applied planning research project, or a comprehensive group project.

The master’s thesis is intended to provide the opportunity for independent scholarly research and should be the length and quality of a publishable journal article.   The thesis project should familiarize students with the literature of their field of specialization, and enable them to formulate, investigate, and test or explore a hypothesis of significance to their field and to report on the results in an organized and coherent form.

Academic credit for thesis preparation is given through UP 208C, required of students selecting this option, and UP 598 (four units).

Dissertations, M.A. Theses and M.A. Client/Comprehensive projects are available for circulation in Young Research Library.

To locate a dissertation from the library catalog

  • Do a keyword search on dissertations urban planning ucla
  • The Ph.D. dissertations in Urban Planning will have a call number beginning with LD791.9 U7.
  • Go to Power search, select call number search from the pull down menu, put in the above call number, and click on call number search. This will result in a list of the dissertations in alphabetical order by author.

To locate a thesis from the library catalog

  • Do a keyword search on thesis urban planning ucla m a
  • The M.A. theses in Urban Planning will have a call number beginning with LD 791.8 U7
  • Go to Power search, select call number search from the pull down menu, put in the above call number, and click on call number search. This will result in a list of the M.A.’s in alphabetical by author.

To search for a M.A. client project or comprehensive project from the library catalog

  • Do a keyword search on projects ucla urban planning
  • Choose the “subject list” option, then click Search.
  • In the results, click on the first heading. Sort by author, title or date.

An applied research project is recommended for students who are more interested in practical application of what they have learned in their coursework than in scholarly research.  The time span and magnitude of the final project approximates that of the thesis. Academic credit is given through required courses UP 205A and UP 205B.  Guidance of the applied research project is provided by a committee charied by a faculty member, and and consisting of at least one consulting faculty member and a client representative.

The product may take any form agreed on in advance (e.g., a report, film, computerized model, set of working drawings).  Small groups of students may engage in such a project collectively, or individual students may work on projects alone.

Projects are available at the Southern Regional Library Facility (310) 206-2013.

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the master’s degree, students are required in the second year to complete either a thesis or one of two comprehensive examination plans, Plan A (a client project) or Plan B (the two-week examination).

As an alternative under Plan A, students may take courses UP 217A-217B Comprehensive Project for eight units credit to fulfill the comprehensive examination requirement. The comprehensive project counts as the equivalent of two courses and spans two quarters.  The project class brings together students of varying backgrounds and interests to jointly solve an urban planning problem.

Comprehensive Projects are available at the Southern Regional Library Facility.

Students may fulfill the capstone requirement by one of the following two options:

  • OPTION 1:   Service Learning: Urban Planning 185-SL OR Urban Planning 195
  • OPTION 2: Research: Urban Planning 199 (Taken for 4 units; Must have junior or senior standing to enroll).

Other Student Research Resources

Many courses in the Urban Planning curriculum engage real-world research topics, either on a weekly basis or as a comprehensive course focus. Examples of these research projects include:


As scholars at one of the country’s largest and longest-lived departments of urban planning, UCLA Luskin doctoral students have made a substantial and indelible contribution to planning theory and practice.

All dissertations are filed at Young Research Library. Recent Ph.D. dissertation topics include:

  • The individual Association Between Food Store Types and Body Mass Index in Los Angeles County (‘13)
  • Regional Pathways to Technological Upgrading: The Impact of Agglomeration Economies and Its Regional Covariates on Upgrading in Post-Reforms India’s Manufacturing Sector (‘13)
  • Transforming the Borders of Citizenship: Domestic Worker Organizing from the Ground Up (‘13)
  • Reinventing Infrastructure: The 101 Freeway and the Revisioning of Downtown Los Angeles (‘12)
  • Hurdling Barriers: Labor and Employment Experiences of Asian Americans with Disabilities (‘12)
  • The Personal City: The Experiential, Cognitive Nature of Travel and Activity and implications for Accessibility (‘12)
  • Owner-Drivers in the Tro-Tro Industry: A Look at Jitney Service Provision in Accra, Ghana (‘12)
  • More than Just the “Loser Cruiser”?: An Ethnographic Study of the Social Life on Buses (‘12)
  • Democratic Planning in Seattle: Distributive Outcomes Across Neighborhoods (‘12)
  • Immigrant Ethnic Neighborhoods, Inward Focus, and Travel Mode Choice (‘12)
  • Access and Outcomes: Transportation, Location, and Subjective Well-Being (‘12)
  • Cooperation as Collateral? Social Capital and Joint Liability Microfinance Group Lending in Nicaragua (‘11)
  • Sprawling to Opportunity: Los Angeles African Americans on the Exurban Frontier (‘11)
  • The Capability Model of Disability: Assessing the Success of UAE Federal Law No. 29 of 2006 in the Emirate of Dubai (‘11)
  • Immigrant Crossings and Interactive Labor Markets: The Story of Work in Koreatown, Los Angeles (‘11)
  • The Rise of Western Land and Water Regulation on the Hawaiian Islands: An Historical Analysis of Land, Property, and Water Governance, 1840s-1910s (‘11)
  • Containing Gangs and Creating Safer Communities: Gang Policies and Youth Perceptions of Safety in Norwalk, California (‘11)
  • Exit, Voice, Loyalty and Structural Silence: Citizen-Consumer Access and Behavior in Nigeria’s Urban Water Markets (‘09)
  • Promise or Compromise? Community-Managed Water Supply for the Urban Poor in Madhya Pradesh, India (‘09)
  • The Regulated City: The Politics of Land Use Regulation in Los Angeles, 1909-2009 (‘10)
  • Diesel Truck Impact Zones in Southern ↑ / accordion DISSERTATIONS  Subhead, black text, title case:  CRITICAL PLANNING   California: Localized Implications of Goods Movement Container Traffic (‘09)
  • International Technology Gaps in the Age of globalization (‘09)
  • Exploring the localization of Transportation Planning: Essays on Research and Policy Implications from Shifting Goals in Transportation Planning (‘09)
  • Heterogeneity and Collective Action: Evidence from Massachusetts (‘09)
  • The Politics of Counting Carbon: Lessons from the California Climate Action Registry (‘08)
  • Fashioning a Greener Shade of Clean: Integrating Pollution Prevention Into Public Policy -The Case of Professional Wet Cleaning (‘09)
  • Institutional Issues in the Adoption of Smart Card Systems Among U.S. Transit Agencies for Fare Collection (‘08)
  • Why do the Poor Move to Cities? : The Central City–Suburban Locational Choice of Low-Income Households (‘08)
  • The In-Between City: Neoliberal Globalization, Inequality and Middle Class Politics in Buenos Aires, Argentina (2002-2007) (‘08)
  • Lofty Ideal, Hefty Deal: Empowerment Through Participatory Slum Upgrading in India and Indonesia (‘08)
  • Not Out of the Woods Yet: How Does Actor Proximity Shape Innovation in the Canadian Maritime Provinces Wood Furniture Industry (‘07)
  • Cultural Development and the Entrepreneurial City: The Flagship Cultural Strategy in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose (‘07)
  • The Caspian Sea Regionalism in a Globalized World: Energy, Security and Regional Trajectories of Azerbaijan and Iran (‘07)
  • MacArthur Park: Rethinking Attachments to Public Space in a Transitional Environment (‘07)
  • Complex Transactions: The role of Race and Relationships in Small Business Finance (‘07)
  • Smart Cards, Slow Deployment: Institutional Barriers to Technology Adoption in Public Transportation (‘07)
  • The Struggle for Transit Justice: Race, Space, and Social Equity in Los Angeles (‘06)
  • How the Built Environment Influences NonWork Travel: Theoretical and Empirical Essays (‘05)
  • From Neighborhood to Global: Community-Based Regionalism and Shifting Concepts of Place in Community and Regional Development (‘05)
  • Globalization and Regionalism: How Does “Security” Condition Regional Trajectories of Resource Rich Countries in Central Asia and   the Caucasus? (‘04)
  • Assessing the Determinants and Economic Effects of Service Contracting on Fixed-Route Bus Transit (‘04)
  • Coalition Building for Indigenous Justice: American Indian Sovereignty and Struggles in Ward Valley, California (‘04)
  • Urban Disinvestment Revisited: Subprime Mortgage Lending and Slum Housing in the City of Los Angeles (‘04)
  • Environmental Sacrifice Zones: Risk and Transport in Southern California (‘04)
  • The Historical Geography of Innovation and the Localized Knowledge Spillover (‘04)
  • Transit-Friendly Areas: The Role of Residential Relocation and Housing Development in Rail Ridership Over Time (‘04)
  • Power, Conservation, and Indigenous Livelihood: Guarani Strategies for Conquering Political Space in Decentralization in Izozg, Bolivia (‘03)
  • Local Autonomy Movements in North American City-Regions: Territorial Strategies and the Local Democracy Argument (‘03)
  • The Numbers Game: The Politics of Federal Surface Transportation Programs (‘03)
  • Remainders of Urbanity: Space, Politics, and French Urban Policy
  • Only A Nobody Walks: The Decline of Pedestrian Trips in the United States (‘03)
  • Public-Private Partnerships and Low-Income area Revitalization in Los Angeles County: Effective Public Policy, Dysfunctional Conflict, or Private Sector Rip-off? (‘03)
  • The Origins of Puerto Rican Environmental Justice in the South Bronx (‘03)
  • Representing Community: A Qualitative Study on Multicultural Arts and the Struggle for Cultural Citizenship (‘03)
  • Heterotopias of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historic Preservation in Taipei(‘03)
  • The Land Question: Agrarian Reform and Capitalist Development in the Chilean Countryside, 1964-1980 (‘02)
  • Reconciling Incompatible Zone Systems in Metropolitan Planning (‘02)
  • A Comparison of African American FaithBased and Secular Community Development Corporations (‘02)
  • Performativities of Space: Bodies, Cities, Texts (‘02)
  • Place-Based and People-Based Policy Approaches to Neighborhood Poverty: A Comparative Evaluation of the Enterprise Zone (‘02)
  • The Power of Image: City-Building Processes at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (‘02)
  • PADRES: A Study of Revolutionary Chicano Priests (‘02)