Practical Work - Report Writing - College of Engineering - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Work Reports

Students must submit two satisfactory reports covering two different types of practical work, each of at least  320 hours (40 days). It is preferable the reports also relate to two different employers. Each report should be on at least 320 hours with the same company in the same summer break, not on two or more companies over one summer, or two periods of work spread over two summers. If both periods of work are with the same employer, the reports must be substantially different, ie on two different departments or types of work experience (as above) and must make different observations; you must make comparisons between your two periods of work. (See Comparisons). The section on the company cannot be cut and pasted from the first report. The second report is meant to be an improvement on the first one. Both reports must then be submitted so they can be compared to ensure they are different.  Students are not permitted to submit a single report to be credited as two reports. Two written reports must be submitted.

All reports must be submitted to the College of Engineering Office by the first Monday in April following the long vacation in which the work was performed. However Graduating students must submit reports by the first Monday in March if they wish to attend the April Ceremony.

Late reports will only be accepted under exceptional circumstances.  If you wish to apply for permission to submit a late report you must write to your departmental practical work supervisor explaining the reason for the late submission and obtain their signature; this should then be attached to your report before submission.

Unsatisfactory reports will be returned for rewriting and must be resubmitted.

The reports are confidential between the student and College of Engineering. The reports must not be disclosed to any other party.   Reports are returned after they have been assessed, but you must sign a declaration to the effect that you will not disclose the contents.

Goals of Practical Work Report Writing

The goals of writing a practical work report are:

  1. To ensure that the experience you gain is of an acceptable standard.  That is, to ensure that you have become familiar with engineering processes, terms, and concepts, and that you have observed and experienced different work roles and how they relate in an organisation.
  2. To develop your skill at report writing, which is critical for consulting engineers in such tasks as preparing tenders, presenting progress reports, preparing research reports etc.

Essential requirements of the Report

Your report must meet the following requirements:

  1. It must be typewritten or prepared on a word processor and must be entirely your own work except for the inclusion of photographs, trade pamphlets, and layout diagrams/drawings.  Material taken from other sources should be clearly identified.  (Please keep the number of attachments to a minimum.)
  2. You must include the following declaration:

    "I hereby certify that this report  (except where indicated) is entirely my own work.


  3. It must be neatly prepared, stapled into a folder, or otherwise finished with semi-stiff covers.  Loose sheets are not acceptable.  Do not place the pages in clear plastic envelopes, as this makes correcting the report difficult.         
  4. You MUST record the following information on the outside of the folder (name, number & department on top right corner):

4.1  Your name.
4.2  Student ID number.
4.3  Department and just completed stage in course (e.g. Mechanical, First Pro)
4.4  The name of your employer (ie company name).
4.5  Date of work period and number of hours worked.
4.6  Type of work (e.g. workshop, professional practice)
4.7  Number of words used in report

Required Sections:

The report should include the following sections:

  1. Company Structure/Products Services
    1. "Name and location of the organisation and a list of the products and services it provides.
    2. A description of the major technical processes for producing the organisation's products and services.
    3. The names of the facilities or departments you worked in.
    4. A brief description of each department you worked in - this should include:  the products and services provided; the types and numbers of employees; how the products are made and the services are provided; how the work is scheduled and controlled; the type of equipment used in the department; the layout of the equipment in the department.
  2. Staffing Issues and Management
    1. The organisation structure (who is the boss of whom).
    2. The number of employees in the organisation and a description of the management structure, if appropriate.
    3. A description and discussion of personnel or industrial relations within the organisation and how well the people in the department relate to each other, to other departments and higher management.
    4. A description and discussion of the human aspects of your employment within the organisation.     
    5. Comment on the company's Health and Safety policies, culture, procedures and induction relevant to the work performed, and from the perspective of a new employee.
  3. Work Performed
    1. An in-depth description of the work you performed, highlighting technical aspects and problems you encountered.  
    2. You should reflect on your work experience and how it relates to the courses you have been taught.
    3. A reproduced set of instructions for how the work is done will not be accepted.
  4. Conclusion
    1. General summary of the work performed, the benefit derived and, if applicable, some comparison with previous places of employment.
    2. Include anything else relating to the organisation or the work you performed that particularly interested you.

Approximately half the report should consist of the description of the organisation (items 1 and 2 above) with the other half describing the work you performed (items 3 and 4).


  1. The length of the report should be a minimum of 3000 words, plus diagrams, but it is desirable that it does not exceed 5000 words.  3000 words are approximately 6-7 pages typed (single spaced).  The number of words used must be specified.
  2. Include diagrams where possible.  These should be numbered and have appropriate captions.
  3. The report should include a Table of Contents and be divided into sections using main headings or sub-headings. Do not use the first person (ie ‘I’) excessively throughout your report but ensure it is easy to distinguish between your work and the work carried out by the company.  See “Use of the First Person”.
  4. Particular attention should be paid to correct grammar and spelling.  If you are using a word processing package, then make use of the spell check and grammar check, but do not rely on these exclusively as they will not pick up all errors.  Avoid the use of slang and colloquial expressions, as these are not appropriate in a technical report.
  5. Students are encouraged to develop a critical attitude, but such criticism must be constructive.  Remember that your lack of experience and unfamiliarity with the firm may lead to erroneous conclusions.
  6. Assessors will be marking your report on the following:
    • Table of Contents
    • Sections / Headings / Page Numbering
    • Diagrams / Figures / Referencing
    • Grammar
    • Spelling
    • Paragraphs / Punctuation
    • Products / Services
    • Management / Facilities / Departments
    • Health and Safety
    • Staffing Issues / Industrial Relations / Student’s interaction with colleagues
    • Description of duties / Problems encountered
    • Understanding of technical content
    • Constructive criticism
    • Reflection on relevance to courses  /Comparison to previous employment (if applicable)
    • Introduction
    • Formal report
    • Concise / 3000-5000 words
    • Signed Declaration
    • Approx. 50% of report on company / 50% on student’s work

See Recommendations for a good report

See Common Errors