What are the key components of a progress report? There are no official guidelines from the funding agency; all I have is a set of project objectives listed in the original proposal and a target length: three pages.

I am at the stage of putting together a draft for the PI, and I would like to due my due-diligence (get some basic guidelines here) before asking the PI for further input.

Here are some of my questions:

  • What sections should it include?
  • Are there any essential "key concepts" to include?
  • Is it acceptable to cut and paste from the proposal?
  • Should I include figures and graphs from unpublished findings?
  • How would the writing style compare / contrast to a proposal? To a research paper?

Finally, is there a good resource that provides a comprehensive (if brief) overview of writing progress reports? I have a few books on scientific writing, but none specifically adress progress reports.

  • 1
    Have you asked your PI for copies of old progress reports. The answers you get here will be "correct", but they may not be what your PI is looking for.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 8:42

1 Answer 1


Good engineering practice suggests:

  1. An executive overview: a couple of sentences (3 lines) which states either "The objectives for the period have been reached." or "The objectives have not been reached, because ..."; then "No obstacle in the way to the next objectives." Or "Possible obstacle are ....; contingency plan is ....".

  2. A summary: what were the objectives for the period; then for each objective what has been done towards that objective. A little reuse of figures/graphs here is acceptable.

  3. a main results section, as space allows: here you select one or two "main achievements" from the previous reporting period, and you give more details about that, with possibly references to external reports / draft papers / additional materials that the report reviewer can go analyse if they are interested.

  4. an optional obstacles & contingency section: if the executive summary lists problems, here you details what these problems are (either the obstacles in the previous period, or the foreseen obstacles in the next period, or both). Also detail your planned contingency actions.

  5. a report of effort spent: here you detail where your budget (and man-hours of work) was allocated to each objective/task.

Also, don't make it too long. It's extremely important that the reviewers of your project can get an overall impression of the progress in a very short time. (they will typically have many projects to evaluate in a short time)

  • 1
    I would also add: deviations from the work plan and explain why these deviations were made. Also note any planned future deviations. These are generally approved if reasonable, and it's best to make them explicit. Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 8:03

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