Progress reports are critical in project management, whether it's a dissertation or one of the projects carried out on the job. You will need to do these to keep your supervisor, colleagues, or customers up to date on what you are currently working on. You will need to focus on what you have achieved and what still needs to be done.
Method 1 of 3: Getting Started
Step 1. Define your purpose in the proposal
There are several different reasons why someone might ask for a progress report. Of course, any one of them will be written for the purpose of revealing the progress made on a specific project. However, there are different types of proposals to consider:
- The progress report for a research program or project will be slightly different from that for an on-the-job project. In that case, you're more likely to have to cite information, and you're less likely to have to consider items such as cost (though not always).
- The work report for a client will be written differently than for a superior at work. You must first consider the reasons why you are writing it.
Step 2. Think about the audience
After defining the purpose of the report, you should consider the types of topics the recipient needs to receive. While all progress reports usually include certain general data, it is important to note specific points:
- How are readers connected to the project? How will the result affect them? Connection and influence will differ between superior and client, for example.
- Think about what decision readers need to make after reading the progress report (what support, money, or time they will need to invest, for example).
- Consider the information readers must know to truly oversee and participate in the project. What technical aspects will you need to know? Are you already familiar with technical jargon?
Step 3. Define the best way to communicate with the audience
The progress report is not just a written document to be sent to the teacher or superior. It can take many forms based on what is needed.
- The progress report can be a brief oral report at weekly or monthly team meetings.
- It can take the form of occasional emails to colleagues.
- It can take the form of formal or informal memos sent to supervisors.
- It could still be done as formal reports to clients or government agencies.
Step 4. Talk to the supervisor
Unless you've written this type of report before (so why would I be here?), it's important to get as much guidance as possible from your superiors. There may be a specific format used by the company, in which case it is important to follow the appropriate rules.
Step 5. Watch the tone
Not all reports need to be formal. In fact, internal reports made to colleagues or supervisors often contain more informal language. That's why it's so important to talk to your supervisor about what you expect to find.
- When it comes to information passed to a client or a government agency, or even a thesis to be analyzed by a panel, it is worth sinning more on the formality side.
- Regardless of the level of formality or informality, it is important to proceed in a clear, focused and transparent manner.
Method 2 of 3: Writing the Report
Step 1. Decide how you would like to present the material
By the time you start writing the report, you'll have defined the tone it needs to be, as well as your objective. Now, you need to define the best form (or forms) in which to present this information.
- You can choose to make a list of topics. This is a clear way to present materials, being easy to browse and get the necessary information. However, it may be a slightly less formal means of writing a progress report, and it may be better suited for memos aimed at supervisors and e-mailing coworkers.
- You can also include graphs or tables. This can be very good if you're writing a progress report on a project you want funding for, or revealing why you deserve the scholarship you've already received.
Step 2. Use subsections
To write a good progress report, you need to be as clear as possible. Breaking it down into subsections is a great way to gather all the relevant material.
Including subheadings in the report can make it even clearer, as it lets readers or audience know what to expect from each subsection. If there are materials that they are especially interested in, it is possible that they will jump directly to it
Step 3. Write the header
It usually runs across the top of the paper if using a paginated format. Again, this will depend on what the company or university prefers, so remember to ask this question before starting.
The header should include the date, when the report was sent, the name and title of the recipient, the name and title of the sender, and the subject being addressed
Step 4. Write the introduction
This section goes below the header and can be separated from the other materials using italic formatting. It provides a brief overview of the project, summarizing its status. You will be able to establish how much progress has been made and whether certain goals have already been achieved.
Remember to include the purpose of the report, introduce the project, and reiterate that this is an update on progress made
Step 5. Write the body of the proposal
This part, whether divided into sections and subsections, is just a more detailed version of the introduction. Look at the information given in the introduction and try to expand on it.
- Specify the tasks performed since the last report and which ones are still in progress.
- Mention the issues that were encountered, the issues that need to be resolved, and the resolutions to those obstacles.
- Mention the changes that took place and their reasons.
- You can also include points such as personnel changes, difficulty obtaining materials, what cost overruns were encountered, and delays or issues with security or technology.
Step 6. Explore what's next in your project
While it's basically part of the body of the report, it's important here that the audience understand where you're going with this project. Remember to mention challenges that can affect completion deadlines, budget, or management structure.
- You really need to report whether completion deadlines have changed or not.
- Avoid flowering problems for the audience, but there is no need to alarm them unnecessarily or promise what cannot be delivered.
Step 7. Include total hours worked
You need to reveal how much work you and your team (if any) have put into this project. This tells the audience (whether it's your supervisor, your clients, or the government agency that may be funding you) that you've been working hard.
Method 3 of 3: Avoiding Common Difficulties
Step 1. Stick to the subject
As long as you stick to the basics outlined above, you'll be fine. It is very important to avoid deviations to other areas only superficially associated with the project, however interesting they may be.
If your project is about reactivating a local, non-profit arts organization, for example, it may be tempting to step out of focus and into a discussion about the deplorable state of artistic funding, but that doesn't help to detail how is the progress of the project
Step 2. Keep it simple
The purpose of a progress report is to showcase progress made without overwhelming the audience with ideas and words. All you need to focus on is how the project is going, what needs to be worked on, and what changes need to be made.
Depending on the recipient of your report, you may be restricted to a certain page limit. A good rule of thumb is to be as objective as possible, but be sure to include all the appropriate information
Step 3. Avoid being too vague
Be sure to give specific details about the current progress of the project. Avoid saying something like "We are making good progress in the pursuit of artistic funding", for example, preferring to say "With the two R$5,000 grants from these different organizations, we will only have R$2,000 to reach our goal of R$12,000".
Step 4. Beware of verbiage
Once again, your report must be clear and concise. It is important not to overload the audience with superfluous words that add nothing to the final result. Phrases such as "complete catastrophe" and "giddy success", for example, are too emotional and vague to use with clients or supervisors.
Step 5. Name your sources
Any information used that has come from an external source, as well as graphics and data, must be properly represented. You can add an additional sources and references section to your report.
- Try to analyze your supervisor's style. It may be that he has some preference as to the types of reports he prefers to see. Some want to see more lists or information on topics, while others choose to know as little as possible in order to move forward. Still others will prefer as much information as possible, regardless of how many pages are needed.
- Be specific when outlining progress, but avoid over-words.