Research Progress Report

Seth Ward, University of Wyoming


This exercise is designed to promote productive discussion and advising about your paper. It is an expansion of the “Research Preparation Exercise” Length: a page for section I, 3 pages for section II, and 2 pages for the remainder: research plan and main points of organization, findings, and significance. Much of what you write here can be reused in your final draft. In some cases, the report may be given orally in instructor conference.




Your report should show you have amassed basic Knowledge about your subject, can Interpret this knowledge, understand and use your Sources credibly and critically, and have something to say about the Significance of your research (K.I.S.S.).


Your report must show you have defined a focus, and are aware of the broad contexts into which the focus may be understood. Use the report to:

1.      Define the thesis, scope, context and focus of your project.

2.      Demonstrate your command of the primary sources, published research, and other resources available, and help refine how your project will proceed.

3.      Demonstrate you have a project plan, and a plan for how the paper and/or other items produced by the project will be organized.

4.      Articulate the main points you want to convey, as you understand them at this point in the project (your further research may well refine or change the points), and the significance of those points.  


Progress Report


I. Paragraph (“Abstract”)

Your Name:

Working Title of Paper:


Research Question(s): Please formulate the question or questions you are researching. In some cases, students may need to note multiple questions, or to define the “research problem.”


Thesis Sentence: Compose a sentence or two—usually 25 to 50 words—that gives an overview of your answer to the question. This forms the thesis sentence of the Abstract. In general, a thesis statement is one that reasonable people might argue about—until they read your paper and find out you have shown it is correct (or unsubstantiated) beyond a reasonable doubt. If your thesis statement is too obvious, or not worth arguing about, think about why it is significant and then rewrite it.


Paragraph: Write a paragraph which continues from the thesis sentence, outlining the scope of your paper, the type of readership audience (in some cases, it may be necessary to clarify whether this is a study of literary sources, a historical work, uses anthropological measurements, or whatever), the goal, purpose, types of primary and secondary resources, proposed contents of paper, likely findings and the likely significance. Write this abstract in such a way that it helps you determine (and balance) “crucial context” and “fundamental focus” in your paper.


II. Literature Survey/Bibliography:  
For this section, discuss five resources you have already examined, and show how these resources relate to the thesis statement or the theme of your paper.


Select a list of at least five resources, usually including both primary sources, and academic analyses of these sources. Unless the entire book or article is clearly relevant to your research, indicate the pages in which there is material relevant to your project. Strive for a reasonable and representative sample of the resources you have examined on your subject, rather than providing a comprehensive discussion. Your analysis should help in delineating your research focus.


For each resource, find the author’s perspective on your topic, or a significant comment related to your topic. Begin with the scholar’s name and "asserts" or "thinks" or "interprets" or “offers an analysis of” for each one. Include a very brief quote (one sentence maximum), with the exact page on which the quote occurs. Paraphrase, summarize or explain the rest of what the author has to say as succinctly as you can, and contrasting his or her approach or conclusions with those of other authors. Include one longer discussion of a published book (or a section of a published book), about 180-200 words, otherwise, limit your comments to two to four sentences per source. (Experience suggests this should be a published book, not a website! It can be an important “primary source” or a work of scholarship.


You can write this as a connected essay, or as comment about each resource. This section should discuss what you have studied, not what you “plan to read” or examine, although you can mention these and should include them in the Bibliography.


Bibliography: Attach a bibliography to establish you have an impressive command of the resources for your research focus, and a credible command of the overall resources for the broader context of your project.


III. Research Plan and Methodology:


How are you constructing your research? Briefly, outline the stages of your research, your methodology—and your plan. Set dates for completion of various research and writing tasks!


IV. Main Points (organization, findings AND significance)
Organization and findings: Discuss four or five main points you believe the paper will demonstrate. This section should suggest how your paper will be organized and may include an outline; if so, clarify the main points, purpose and conclusion of each section as sentences, not bullet points or outline titles.  


Significance: Discuss the “so what?” of your project. What is the significance of your conclusions in this project, and why should your readers care?  Even if you are not sure about the main points and significance, articulating them at this stage is critical for refining and focusing your project.