379: introduction to professional writing
report describes the status of an ongoing project.
Progress reports range in size from single-page blank forms to documents
running to sixty or seventy pages. Some progress reports are written
when an unexpected breakthrough occurs or when a project falls under
new administration. Most, however, are written upon completion of a
certain stage in a project. Deadlines for progress reports are established
when a project is begun; those deadlines are tied to project stages,
which are determined, also, when the project is begun.
As shown below in "Fig. 1: writing process for technical reports,"
writing for any project begins with a feasibility study, continues through
the course of the project with preliminary reports and progress reports,
and ends with the final report, submitted upon the completion of the
Progress reports themselves are composed from material from shorter
reports. These may be production reports, field reports, conference reports
and/or laboratory reports, depending upon the project field.In
the case of some projects, periodic reports are used in lieu of progress
reports. These are issued at pre-established intervals identified in the
As you may have discovered,
studies are difficult to write simply because you must confront
so many unknowns. By contrast, progress reports are relatively easy to
write because you may use the feasibility study and other earlier reports
as guides and models.
A progress report measures progress according to criteria set forth in
the conclusion/action part of feasibility study. In fact, the design of
a progress report may be based upon the design of the feasibility study,
and most sections of the feasibility study will have a corresponding section
in this report.
Furthermore, the progress report may boilerplate
-- that is, re-use appropriate text from the feasibility study and/or
other previous reports unchanged. But be careful. It is almost too easy to
cut sections and paste them into subsequent reports without re-reading them,
too easy to allow in subsequent reports details that are no longer relevant
or accurate, and too easy also to fail to revise potentially embarrassing
stylistic matters like verb tense. "The project will involve three
separate divisions" in the feasibility study must become "The project involves three separate divisions" in the progress report. In short, if you borrow
any text or any visual aid from the feasibility study, re-evaluate it for
relevance in progress report. Circumstances are likely to have changed.