Great Guide to Writing Progress Reports |

Tips on Writing Progress Reports

Whenever an organization or business starts a new initiative or project, it is important it remains aware of the progress of that initiative or project, what the project team are finding and deciding, and if any improvements are needed. The documents usually used to provide an organization’s managers with updates or information on progress are known as progress reports. When these reports are properly written they are of great benefit to the organization and the person (or project manager) who writes them. The business receives accurate information in real-time and the writer is assured of adequate finance and manpower for their project.      

The Steps Involved in Writing Progress Reports

  1. Create headings for your report. A heading would normally include the report’s date of creation, the name of the creator and their position, the name of the person it is intended for and their position, the report’s title or subject, and the submission date.
  2. Start by writing the introductory paragraph or section. This part should be brief in terms of the project. After this, readers should be given information about the purpose of the project, its timeline should be clarified, and readers should be reminded of other important elements.
  3. The next section should describe what work has been completed. Possibly the most effective way to do this is to list these tasks in chronological order in two separate columns. One column should list dates and the other should specify the different tasks the project team has been engaged on. This section of the report should also provide information on any important findings.
  4. Use the next part of the report to outline any particular problems encountered by the project team. Explain how these problems were resolved or what measures are in hand for dealing with them. Say also if the problems encountered wrought any changes on the project and whether any additional assistance is needed.
  5. Provide information about any plans you have for moving the project forward. Give an overview of any tasks that need to be completed over a given period in the future. Include deadline dates for such tasks.
  6. The last section should comprise of a summary of your report. This part should provide only crucial information about completed work and tasks on your “to do” list. Include also a brief synopsis of every problem the project team experienced along with any corrective steps you plan to take.

See also: “Excel expert tips and tricks”

Choosing a Topic

Very often, topics for progress reports are based on the work the project team has recently undertaken. When writing a progress report, however, you are actually creating topics for your next report when you outline and schedule tasks for the next phase of the project.

Main Points for Consideration

  • There are a various formats for progress reports. For instance, there are short verbal reports, email reports sent periodically to managers, or official written reports with a well-defined structure. Sometimes, internal reports are circulated in the form of memos whereas business letters can constitute external reports, e.g., those sent from one company to another.
  • Not only do progress reports let managers know about the status of a project, they can also have an impact on decision-making. The management of an organization may use these reports to amend, change, or revise decisions to coincide with altered situations or circumstances.
  • Progress reports should focus on a particular project, which implies they should be centered on work done by a project team rather than on the expectations or plans of the writer’s supervisors.
  • The structure of a progress report should be concise and simple. Long, bulky reports should be avoided. Usually, it is best to confine yourself to two to three pages.
  • Not only do progress reports provide essential information to decision-makers, but they also demonstrate the writer’s area of expertise or specialization.

What You Should Do

  1. When writing progress reports, be quite specific. Emotional or vague observations will not be appreciated.
  2. When writing the section on work that has been completed, use the active voice. This helps to reinforce the idea that you and the project team have been working hard and have put in considerable effort.
  3. You should be consistent in the way you write a progress report. Once you have used a particular format, continue to use that format.
  4. Use a number of graphics in your reports e.g. diagrams, tables, and charts. Use colors to highlight different levels of importance or statuses. The information in your reports should be organized and presented in a manner that is easy to read and understand.
  5. Cite any sources you have borrowed data from and acknowledge any images or photos used in your reports.

What You Should Not Do

  1. In the section showing works that have been completed, do not write a story-type narrative on how research work was undertaken. Stick to essential information only e.g. primary findings and any results.
  2. Do not offer excuses for any issues that arise or blame other people. Some problems can be quite reasonable, e.g., a supplier may be late delivering something or equipment may fail. In any case, try not to sound as though you are trying to avoid responsibility or are just complaining.
  3. Work should not be reported as complete until it is actually done, even when there is only one small task required to finish it. Unexpected or unforeseen issues can arise to prevent it from being completed and you do not want your readers to think it is completed when this is not the case.
  4. Do not forget to offer or suggest solutions to any issues outlined in your report.
  5. Do not make your summary or concluding section too long or wordy. Focus on important points only and omit any details that are not necessary.

See also: “Online homework”

Common Errors in Progress Reports

  • Writers sometimes use overly expressive words and/or phrases to describe a set of circumstances or a situation. If you describe the status of a project as a “huge success” or a “total disaster,” this is vague and supervisors will not find such words useful.
  • The submitting of reports at irregular intervals to managers/supervisors is a mistake. It is likely these people will want to receive reports in a consistent manner and at specific times.
  • It is a mistake to gloss over particular problems and/or to understate the regularity of their occurrence. You should always be honest in the information you provide concerning problems related to project work.
  • Making progress reports too long is another frequent error. Do not fill these documents with too much details, calculations, research information, etc.

You should now know the basic rules of writing progress reports. Feel free to refer to the sample progress reports on’s website to put this theory into practice.