ENGL 379: introduction to professional writing
progress reports

progress reports defined

A progress 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 project.

Feasibility Study
Proposal Preliminary Report
    Production Reports, Field Reports, Conference Reports and/or Laboratory Reports 1st progress report
    Production Reports, Field Reports, Conference Reports and/or Laboratory Reports 2nd progress report
    Production Reports, Field Reports, Conference Reports and/or Laboratory Reports 3rd progress report

Fig. 1: writing process for technical reports.

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 preliminary report.

As you may have discovered, feasibility 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.

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