7 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 several weeks or even months to complete a project.

Functions and Contents of Progress Reports

In the progress report, you explain any or all of the following:

  • How much of the work is complete
  • What part of the work is currently in progress
  • What work remains to be done
  • What problems or unexpected things, if any, have arisen
  • How the project is going in general

Progress reports have several important functions:

  • Reassure recipients that you are making progress, that the project is going smoothly, and that it will be complete by the expected date.
  • Provide recipients with a brief look at some of the findings or some of the work of the project.
  • Give recipients a chance to evaluate your work on the project and to request changes.
  • Give you a chance to discuss problems in the project and thus to forewarn recipients.
  • Force you to establish a work schedule so that you’ll complete the project on time.
  • Project a sense of professionalism to your work and your organization.

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:

  • Memo—A short, informal report to someone within your organization
  • Letter—A short, informal report sent to someone outside your organization
  • Formal report—A formal report sent to someone outside your organization

In our course, you will write a progress report in the form of a thorough memo, and you will attach an outline to that memo to give your recipient an idea of the content in your final report.  (See the chapter on Outlines for more information.)

Organizational Patterns or Sections 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. In other words, the following three sections are key in any progress memo or progress report:

  • Work accomplished in the preceding period(s)
  • Work currently being performed
  • Work planned for the next period(s)

Other Parts of Progress Reports

In your progress memo or report, you also need to include the following sections: (a) an introduction that reviews the purpose and scope of the project, (b) a detailed description of your project and its history, and (c) an overall appraisal of the project to date, which usually acts as the conclusion.

  • Opening paragraph introducing the purpose of the memo and a reminder about the project topic
  • Summary of the project
  • Specific objectives of the project
  • Scope, or limits, of the project
  • Research gathered
  • Overall assessment or appraisal of the project at this time

Revision Checklist for Progress Reports

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

  • Make sure you use the right format. Remember that for our course, you will be providing your progress in a memo.
  • Write a clear opening paragraph reminding your recipient of the project you are working on and that you are providing progress on that project
  • Use headings to mark off the different parts of your progress report, particularly the different parts of your summary of work done on the project.
  • Use lists as appropriate.
  • Provide specifics—avoid relying on vague, overly general statements about the work you’ve done on the final report project.
  • Be sure and address the progress report to the real or realistic audience—not your instructor.

You will be including an outline of your report at the end of your progress memo for this class, so now move to the chapter on creating outlines.

Chapter Attribution Information

This chapter was derived from the following sources.

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Progress Reports by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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