Chapter 3: Progress Reports

You write a progress report to inform a supervisor, associate, or customer about progress you've made on a project over a certain period of time. The project can be the design, construction, or repair of something, the study or research of a problem or question, or the gathering of information on a technical subject. You write progress reports when it takes well over three or four months to complete a project. In the progress report, you explain any or all of the following:

Note: Be sure to check out the example progress report available with this chapter.

Progress reports have several important functions; they:

Timing and Format of Progress Reports

In a year-long project, there are customarily three progress reports, one after three, six, and nine months. Depending on the size of the progress report, the length and importance of the project, and the recipient, the progress report can take the following forms:

Take a look at the discussion in "Format of Proposals,". You can use the same format on progress reports as you can on proposals: memo, letter, separated report; or cover memo or letter with separate report.

Organizational Patterns for Progress Reports

The recipient of a progress report wants to see what you've accomplished on the project, what you are working on now, what you plan to work on next, and how the project is going in general. To report this information, you combine two of these organizational strategies: time periods, project tasks, or report topics.

Time periods. A progress report usually summarizes work within each of the following:

Project tasks. Practically every project breaks down into individual tasks:

Project              		Individual tasks

Building municipal       	Measuring community interest
ball parks on city-     	Locating suitable property
owned land               	Clearing the property
                            	Designing the bleachers, fences, etc.

Writing a report         	Studying the assignment
              			Selecting a topic
              			Identifying the audience of the report
              			Narrowing the topic
              			Developing a rough outline
              			Gathering information
              			Writing one or more rough drafts
              			Documenting the report
              			Revising and editing the report draft
              			Typing and proofreading the report
              			Putting the report in its final package
Report topics. You can also organize your progress report according to the work done on the sections of the final report. In a report project on cocombusting municipal solid waste, you would need information on these topics:
Topics to be covered in the final report

1.  The total amount of MSW produced
2.  The energy potential of MSW, factors affecting its
energy potential 3. Costs to modify city utilities in order to change to
For each of these topics, you'd explain the work you have done, the work you are currently doing, and the work you have planned.

A progress report is a combination of two of these organizational strategies. The following outline excerpts give you an idea of how they combine:

Progress report A        Progress report B       Progress report C

Task 1                   Work Completed          Topic 1
     Work completed           Task 1                  Work completed
     Current work             Task 2                  Current work
     Planned work             Task 3                  Planned work

Task 2                   Current Work            Topic 2
Work completed Task 1 Work completed Current work Task 2 Current work Planned work Task 3 Planned work Task 3 Current Work Topic 3 Work completed Task 1 Work completed Current work Task 2 Current work Planned work Task 3 Planned work
Figure 3-6 shows an example of the project-tasks approach with subheadings for time periods; Figure 3-7 shows the time-period approach with subheadings for report topics.

Figure 3-6. Progress report organized by project tasks and time periods

Figure 3-7. Progress report organized by time periods and report topics

Other Parts of Progress Reports

In your progress report, you also need (a) an introduction that reviews the history of the project's beginnings as well as the purpose and scope of the work, (b) a detailed description of your project, and (c) an overall appraisal of the project to date, which usually acts as the conclusion.

Introduction. Review the details of your project's purpose, scope, and activities. This will aid recipients who are unfamiliar with the project, who do not remember certain details, or who want to doublecheck your approach to the project. The introduction can contain the following:

Figure 3-8. Example introduction to a progress report

Project description. In most progress reports, include a project description to review the details of your project for the recipients:

Figure 3-9. Example project description from a report

Conclusion. The final paragraph or section usually reassures audiences that all is going well and on schedule. It can also alert recipients to unexpected changes or problems in the project.

Figure 3-10. Overall appraisal used as conclusion to a progress report

Revision Checklist for Progress Reports

As you reread and revise your progress report, watch out for problems such as the following:

Return to the table of contents for the TCM1603 Course Guide (the online textbook for Austin Community College's online technical writing course).
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