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Business and Technical English Writing

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Lesson#25

Progress Reports

In this lecture you will learn:

– Typical Writing Situations

– The Readers’ Concern with the Future

– The Questions Readers Most Often Ask

– Superstructure for Progress Reports

• Introduction

• Facts and Discussion

– Answering Your Readers’ Questions

– Providing the Appropriate Amount of Information

…continued

In this lecture you will learn:

– Organizing the Discussion

– Emphasizing Important Findings and Problems

• Conclusions

• Recommendations

• A Note on the Location of Conclusions and

Recommendations

– Tone in Progress Reports

– Sample Outlines

– Planning Guide

– Sample Progress Report

Typical Writing Situations:

• Progress reports are prepared in two types of

situations.

• In the first, you tell your readers about your progress

on one particularproject.

• As a geologist employed by an engineering

consulting firm, Lee must do this.

• His employer has assigned him to study the site that a

large city would like to use for a civic center and

large office building.

…continued

Typical Writing Situations:

• The city is worried that the site might not be

geologically suited for such construction.

• Every two weeks, Lee must submit a progress

report to his supervisor and to the city

engineer.

• Lee’s supervisor uses the progress report to be

sure that Lee is conducting the study in a rapid

and technically sound manner.

…continued

Typical Writing Situations:

• The city engineer uses the report to see that

Lee’s study is proceeding according to the

tight schedule planned for it.

• She also uses it to look for preliminary

indications about the likely outcome of the

study.

• Other work could be speeded up or halted as a

result of these preliminary findings.

Typical Writing Situations:

• In the second type of situation, you prepare

progress reports that tell about your work on

all your projects.

• Many employers require their workers to

report on their activities at regular intervals all

year round, year in and year out.

• Jacqueline is a person who must write such

progress reports (often called periodic reports).

…continued

Typical Writing Situations:

• She works in the research division of a large

manufacturer of consumer products, where she

manages a department that is responsible for

improving the formulas for the company’s laundry

detergents— making them clean and smell better,

making them less expensive to manufacture, and

making them safer for the environment.

• At any one time, Jacqueline’s staff is working on

between ten and twenty different projects.

Typical Writing Situations:

• As part of her regular responsibilities, Jacqueline

must write a report every two weeks to summarize the progress on each of the projects.

• These reports have many readers, including the

following people: her immediate superiors, who want to be sure that her department’s work

is proceeding

satisfactorily;

discoveries they can use in the products they are

responsible for (for example, dishwashing detergents);

…continued

Typical Writing Situations:

and corporate planners, who want to anticipate

changer in formulas that will require alternations in

production lines, advertising, and so on.

• As the examples of Lee and Jacqueline indicate,

progress reports can vary from one another in many

ways:

they may cover one project or many; they may be

addressed to people inside the writer’s organization

or outside it;

…continued

Typical Writing Situations:

• And they may be used by people with a variety

of reasons for reading them, such as learning

things they need to know to manage and to

make decisions.

The Readers’ Concern with the Future:

• Despite their diversity, however, almost all

progress reports have this in common: their

readers are primarily concerned with the

Jacqueline future.

• That is, even though most progress reports talk

primarily about what has happened in the past,

their readers usually want that information so

that they can plan for and act in the future.

The Readers’ Concern with the Future:

• Why? Consider the responsibilities that your readers

will be fulfilling by reading your progress reports.

• From your report, they may be trying to learn the

things they need to know to manage your project.

• They will want to know, for instance, what they

should do (if anything) to keep your project going

smoothly or to get it back on tract.

• The reports written by Lee and Jacqueline are used

for this purpose by some of their readers.

The Readers’ Concern with the Future:

• From your report, some people may also be

trying to learn things they need to know to

manage other projects.

• This is because almost all projects in an

organization are interdependent with other

projects.

• For example, other people and departments

may need the results of your project as they

work on their own projects.

The Readers’ Concern with the Future:

• Maybe you are conducting a marketing survey

whose results they need so that they can design

an advertising campaign, or maybe your

company can install other equipment.

• If your project is going to be late, the

schedules of those projects will have to be

adjusted accordingly.

…continued

The Readers’ Concern with the Future:

• Similarly, if your project costs more than

expected, money and resources will have to be

taken away from other activities to

compensate.

• Because of interdependencies like these, your

readers need information about the past

accomplishments and problems in your project

so that they can make plans for the future.

The Readers’ Concern with the Future:

• Similarly, your readers will often be interested

in learning the preliminary results of your

work.

• Suppose, for instance, that you complete one

part of a research project before you complete

the others.

• Your audience may very well be able to use

the result of that part immediately.

…continued

The Readers’ Concern with the Future:

• The city engineer who reads Lee’s reports

about the possible building site is especially

interested in making this use of the

information Lee provides.

The Questions Readers

Ask Most Often

• The readers’ concern with the implications of

your progress for their future work and

decisions leads them to want you to answer the

following questions in your progress reports.

• If your report describes more than one project,

your readers will ask these questions about

each of them.

…continued

The Questions Readers

Ask Most Often

What work does your report cover?

To be able to understand anything else in a progress report, readers

must know what project or projects and what time

period the report covers.

What is the purpose of the work?

Readers need to know the purpose of your work to see how your work

relates to their responsibilities and to the other work,

present and future, of the organization.

…continued

The Questions Readers

Ask Most Often

Is your work progressing as planned or

expected?

Your readers will want to determine if

adjustments are needed in the schedule,

budget, or number of people assigned to the

project or projects you are working on.

…continued

The Questions Readers

Ask Most Often

What results did you produce?

The results you produce in one

reporting period may influence the shape of

work in future periods. Also, even when you

are still in the midst of a project, readers will

want to know about any results they can use in

other projects now, before you finish your

overall work.

…continued

The Questions Readers

Ask Most Often

What progress do you expect during the next

reporting period?

Again, your readers’ interests will focus on such

management concerns as schedule and budget and on

the kinds of results they can expect.

How do things stand overall?

This question arises especially in long reports.

…continued

The Questions Readers

Ask Most Often

Readers want to know what the overall status of your

work is, something they may not be able to tell

readily from all the details you provide.

What do you think we should do?

If you are experiencing or expecting

problems, your readers will want your

recommendations about what should be done. If you

have other ideas about how the project could be

improved, they too will probably be welcomed.

Superstructure for Progress Reports:

• To answer your readers’ questions, you can use the

conventional superstructure for writing progress

reports, which has the following elements:

1. introduction,

2. facts and

3. discussion,

4. conclusions, and

5. recommendations.

Superstructure for Progress Reports:

INTRODUCTION

• In the introduction to a progress report, you should

answer the following two questions:

1. “What work does your report cover?”

2. “What is the purpose of the work?”

…continued

Superstructure for Progress Reports:

• You can usually answer the question,

“What work does your report cover?”

by opening with a sentence that tells what

project or projects your report concerns and

what time period it covers.

…continued

Superstructure for Progress Reports:

• Sometimes you will not need to answer the second

question

“What is the purpose of the work?”

because all your readers will already be quite familiar

with your work’s purpose.

• At other times, however, it will be crucial for you to tell your work’s purpose because your

readers will

include people who don’t know or may have forgotten it.

…continued

Superstructure for Progress Reports:

• You are especially like to have such readers

when your written report will be widely

circulated in your own organization or when

you are writing to another organization that

has hired your employer to do the work you

describe.

• You can usually explain purpose most

helpfully by describing the problem that your

project will help your readers solve.

Superstructure for Progress Reports:

The following sentences show how one manager answered the

readers’ first two questions:

This report covers the work done on the

Focus Project from July 1 through September

1. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of

Energy, the aim of the Focus Project is to

overcome the technical difficulties

encountered in manufacturing photovoltaic

cells that can be used to generate

commercial amounts of electricity.

Project and Period

Covered Purpose of Project

Facts and Discussion:

• In the discussion section of your progress

report, you should answer questions from your

readers:

• “Is your work progressing as planned

or expected?”

• “What results did you produce?” and,

• “what progress do you expect during

the next reporting period?”

Answering your Readers’ Questions

• In many situations, the work for each reporting

period is planned in advance.

• In such cases you can easily tell about your

progress by comparing what happened with

what was planned.

• Where there are significant discrepancies

between the two, your readers will want to

know why.

…continued

Answering your Readers’ Questions:

• The information you provide about the causes

of problems will help your readers decide how

to remedy them.

• It will also help you explain any

recommendations you make later in your

report.

Answering your Readers’ Questions:

• When you are discussing preliminary results that your

readers might user, be sure to explain them in terms

that allow your readers to see their significance.

• In research projects, preliminary results are often

tentative. If this is case for you, let your readers know

how certain —or uncertain —the results are.

• This information will help your readers decide how to

use the results.

Providing the Appropriate

Amount of Information

• When preparing progress reports, people often

wonder how much information they should include. Generally, progress reports are brief

because readers

want them that way.

• While you need to provide your readers with specific

information about your work, don’t include details except when the details will help your

readers decide

how to manage your project or when you believe that your readers can make some

immediate use of them.

…continued

Providing the Appropriate

Amount of Information

• In many projects, you will learn lots of little

things and you will have lots of little setbacks

and triumphs along the way.

• Avoid talking about these matters. No matter

how interesting they may be to you, they are

not likely to be interesting to your readers.

• Stick to the information your readers can use.

Organizing the Discussion:

• You can organize your discussion section in

many ways. One is to arrange your material

around time periods:

1. What happened during the most recent

time period?

2. What’s expected to happen during the

next time period?

Organizing the Discussion:

• You will find that this organization is

especially well-suited for reports in which you

discuss a single project that has distinct and

separate stages, so that you work on only one

task at a time.

• However, you can also expand this structure

for reports that cover either several projects or

one project in which several tasks are

performed simultaneously:

Organizing the Discussion:

• What happened during the most recent time

period?

• Project A (or Task A)

• Project B

• What’s expected to happen during the next time

period?

• Project A

• Project B

…continued

Organizing the Discussion

• When, you prepare reports that cover more than

one project or more than one task, you might also

consider organizing around those projects or tasks:

– Work on Project A (or Task A)

– What happened during the last time period?

…continued

Organizing the Discussion

• What’s expected to happen during the next time

period?

– Work on Project B

– What happened during the last time period?

– What’s expected to happen during the next time period?

• This organization works very well in reports that are

more than a few paragraphs long because it keeps all

the information on each project together, making the

report easy for readers to follow.

Emphasizing Important

Findings and Problems

• As mentioned, your findings and problems are

important to your readers.

• Your findings are important because they may

involve information that can be used right

away by others.

• The problems you encounter are important

because they may require your readers to

change their plans.

…continued

Emphasizing Important:

Findings and Problems

• Because your findings and problems can be so

important to your readers, be sure that you

devote enough discussion to them to satisfy

your readers’ needs and desires for

information.

• Also, place these devices so that they are easy

to find.

Conclusions:

• Your conclusions are your overall views on the

progress of your work.

• In short progress reports, there may be no need

to include them, but if your report covers many

projects or tasks, a conclusion may help your

readers understand the general state of our

progress.

Recommendations:

• If you have any ideas about how to improve

the project or increase the value of its results,

your readers will probably want you to include

them.

• Your recommendations might be directed are

overcoming in the future.

• Or they might be directed at refocusing or

otherwise altering the period.

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