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  You are here: RoboFlag Main Page > Course Resources > Report and Presentation Information > Progress Report


Preparing a Fourth-Year Design Project Progress Report

A presentation overview designed for students

Written November 2000,
William Sitch, B.Eng. (1999)
 

The progress report is the second written requirement of the fourth-year design project. This report presents the status of your work and should make reference to your proposal, show clearly how much progress has been made, make a prediction as to how the rest of the project is likely to develop, and state any variation from the project proposal that now seems necessary.

This introduction to progress reports, with emphasis on the fourth-year design project, is as follows:



 
Understanding the Purpose of your Report

The progress report not only details the work you've performed and the work you have yet to perform, but it also addresses the clients' concerns about the schedule, quality, and components of the project. Much like the proposal, you must use the progress report to convince the client that your project is still worthwhile.

A progress report that clearly spells out your achievements will be useful in persuading the client that you will achieve the intended goals by the specified deadline. Even if achieving the original objectives is no longer possible, the progress report offers an opportunity to propose a slight change in focus or to request additional support.

If the progress is satisfactory, the client will continue support of the project (and of you!). If progress is not satisfactory, a project may be canceled or assignments redefined. Even though it seems advantagous to 'bend' the truth about what has been achieved and what can be achieved, remember that you will be evaluated on the accuracy of your progress report when the project comes to completion.



 
Guidelines for Writing the Progress Report

While smaller projects may allow an informal memo or even a phone call to act as a progress report, the scope of your fourth-year design project calls for a full report. Doublespace your work, use a 12-pt font, and follow the guidelines found in your copy of "A Guide to Writing as an Engineer".

You should aim to include everything within two pages, but complex projects may require a third page. Including a cover letter is optional, and would essentially be "summary" section outlined above.



 
Components of the Progress Report

Progress reports typically have the following contents and organization, although the specific requests of your audience may differ:

  • Summary:
    • indicates the purpose of the project
    • provides a brief non-technical overview of the discussion
    • enumerates the accomplishments achieved
    • comments on the current work
  • Project introduction:
    • provides background information
    • identifies the document as a progress report
    • identifies the period of time the report covers
    • introduces your team and responsibilities
    • states the objectives of the project
    • briefly states the phases of the project
    • forecasts the contents of the report
  • Progress summary:
    • presents a complete picture of the individual's/team's activities
      • what work has been completed
      • what work is yet to come
    • can be presented a number of different ways:
      • Time-periods approach (chronological approach; past, present, future work scheme)
      • Project-task approach (summarizes which tasks of the project have been completed, which tasks are currently under way, and which tasks are planned for future work)
      • Combined approach. Task-oriented approach incorporates time-period approach:

          • Discussion
          • The problem
            • Task 1
              • Past work
              • Future work
              • Task 2
                • Past work
                • Future work

      Which of these approaches you use is strictly dependent on the nature of your project and the requirements of your audience. For simpler projects, however, the time-periods may work best. The project-tasks approach works well when the project has a number of semi-independent tasks on which you are working more or less concurrently.

  • Conclusion:
    • restates the purpose of the project
    • includes evaluation of the problems encountered, changes in the project (schedule shifts, new requirements, etc.) and overall assessment of the project
    • conveys one of two messages:
      • things are going well
      • things are not going as well as anticipate

Of course, other sections may also be required: for example, a summary of financial data on the project or the results of product testing. When you plan and write progress reports, be alert to the needs and expectations of your audience.



 
Miscellaneous Advice for your Progress Report

As Natasha Artemeva explains, the best way to draft the progress report is to start with a copy of your proposal: many of the elements of the progress report are based from it:

  • use the statement of the problem from the proposal;
  • restate the discussion of the past work; and
  • reproduce your task schedule modified to show your current status.
Be aware, however, that you will probably need to change the above components. Your report MUST be accurate, and it's doubtful that your performance will be exactly as predicted in your proposal.


Natasha Artemeva also has a handy Checklist for evaluating progress reports. It's available at http://www.carleton.ca/~nartemev/ChecklistWritProgrRep.htm. Evaluate the quality of your own work!


 
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