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 Work report purpose

A work report illustrates your acquired understanding and experience. A good work report shows evidence of critical analysis, good organization, clarity, and conciseness. It enables you to practice your skills of presentation, argument, evaluation, and calculation, and provides a permanent record of your work.

Choosing a work term report topic

It is very important to begin thinking about a work report subject as soon as you start your employment. Perhaps the most difficult part of writing your work report is choosing the topic. You should ideally have your topic selected no later than 14 days after you start your employment. One of the easiest ways to discover topics that may work for you is to consult with your supervisor (show your supervisor the section below entitled “The Nature of a Work Term Report”). Often, employers will have activities that they would like to undertake, but do not have the time or personnel to do so. This is a perfect opportunity for you to investigate one of these activities as a topic for your work report.

You will want to select a topic that is relevant, manageable and doable (and avoid preparing a report deemed confidential by your employer). Your topic should be clearly related to your work place, but it does not always need to be based on the tasks that you are actually performing. It could be based on activities or procedures that are occurring in your work place that you are not directly involved in.

If you are having difficulty finding a topic please consult your departmental co-op work term report coordinator. The earlier you do this, the better. Although the topic does not have to be your idea, the report must be your own work and you are required to make a signed declaration to this effect.  Your work report is to be professional in nature, and will be evaluated on its content, presentation, clarity and analytical quality.

The nature of a work term report

Your work term report must have a clearly identifiable analytical component.  Critical analysis is a three step process involving the description of a problem or issue, appropriate analysis and subsequent evaluation (e.g. what was revealed?, how does it compare?, was it successful?, what should be done next?). A purely descriptive report contains no critical analysis, and merely details the tasks that you performed, provides a “users guide” or consists of downloaded company documentation. Such reports will not be acceptable. A literature review that has no relation to your employment will also be unacceptable.

Report topics based on data or observations made in your work place can often form the basis of a numerical style of critical analysis. This type of report will include summative tables /graphs, and statistical analysis. It could also evaluate models to explain data or observations, or compare the results of simulations.  You should also include a comparison of your work to analyses in the published (ideally peer reviewed) literature (e.g. journal articles).

Not all types of employment lend themselves to numerical analysis, and an analytical report can also be qualitative, or non-numerical. You could clearly articulate advantages and disadvantages of a procedure, process or methodology. You could compare/contrast procedures, processes or methodologies, based on outcomes before and after their implementation, or comparisons with peer-reviewed literature. For example, a work term placement involving teaching could result in a report that compares and contrasts teaching strategies, or the learning outcomes of different types of class exercises.  A technical writing work placement could result in a report that examines and contrasts different report writing strategies.  In all of these cases, an effort must be made to integrate concepts, comparisons or established facts from journal articles, books or other unbiased authoritative sources (e.g. government websites) into your report with appropriate referencing.

Referencing, copyright rules and plagiarism issues

Any image or figure taken from another source, such as a journal article or website, must be acknowledged in the accompanying legend with the source included in the references. This information must be included in the legend accompanying the figure. Your legend should be sufficiently detailed to allow the reader to understand the information in the figure without consulting the text; this legend should not be copied from the original source.

Students should consult the library web site for copyright rules if they are in doubt about material that can be used in their report. It is the student’s responsibility to follow these rules appropriately. Any plagiarism will result in a failed grade for the report and an academic discipline decision. Students may also consult the University academic integrity website for suggestions for how to cite other sources as well as details on university academic policies.


What your report must include

The requirements for a Science work term report are the same as those presented in PD 11 and will be summarized. 

Front Cover should include:

  • Title of the report
  • Your name
  • Your previous academic term and department/program

Title Page should include:

  • Faculty of Science, University of Waterloo
  • Title of report
  • Name and location of your employer
  • Your name, ID number, previous academic term and program, and date when the report was prepared

Letter of Submittal

The letter of submittal must follow the format of a standard business letter and should be addressed to the person who is your Department Chair

  • report title and number (your first, second, and so on)
  • previous academic term
  • employer, supervisor, department
  • main activity of employer and department
  • purpose of report
  • acknowledgments and explanation of assistance received
  • statement that you have checked the report for spelling and grammar errors to the best of your ability
  • statement of endorsement ("This report was written entirely by me and has not received any previous academic credit at this or any other institution.")
  • your name, ID number, and signature

Table of Contents

  • Lists all main sections and subheadings, with page numbers

List of Figures and List of Tables

  • List figure titles with page numbers; list table titles with page numbers

Summary or Abstract

  • purpose of the report
  • scope of the report
  • major points, including a summary of your research methodology
  • highlights of the conclusions and recommendations

Main Report (minimum 2000 words/ maximum 4000 words) consists of Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results and Analysis, and Discussion.


  • Describe the problem or project
  • Provide background information
  • Clearly state the objective(s) of the report

Materials and Methods (if appropriate)

  • Clearly describe the procedures used in your analysis, your description should allow anybody to repeat your work
  • You can use citations to already established procedures, for example: DNA was extracted from the stool samples following the procedures described by Dumpman et al. (2016).

Results and Analysis

  • Give a clear and concise written presentation of the results of your analysis, incorporating figures and tables where appropriate.
  • Do not incorporate “raw” numerical data, present your data effectively using summary statistics, tables and/or figures, including charts, histograms and graphs


  • Must include a critical analysis and overview of the material presented  in the results section

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Conclusions must be supported by the analysis done in the body of the report
  • Recommendations describe future activities that would benefit from the analysis


  • Use discipline appropriate format for both the reference list and in-text citations.

Work report formatting

  • 12-point serif font (Times New Roman)
  • One inch margins on all four sides of the paper
  • Double spaced (except letter of submission, table of contents, and the list of figures and tables)
  • Number all pages (can start with 1)

Figures and Tables

  • Professional appearance
  • Legends must include figure number, title, short description
  • Your legend should be sufficiently detailed to allow the reader to understand the information in the figure/table without consulting the text; this legend should not be copied from the original source.
  • Tables must include table number and a descriptive title
  • Figures and tables must be referred to in your main text