CO-OP Work Term Report Guidelines for Traditional Engineering Programs

The work-term report is an important part of quality co-operative education programs. The assignment provides you with the opportunity to report on your experience with your CO-OP employer and on how the experience related to your learning. Ideally, the report facilitates the integration of knowledge and practice.

The objectives of work-term reports are to help you to:

  • Develop technical writing skills;
  • Develop skills in analytic/critical thinking;
  • Advance your career by giving you the opportunity to evaluate the work you have done and consider opportunities for improvement;
  • Provide constructive feedback to the employer, the CO-OP and Careers office, in order to improve student experience.

Work-term reports can also be a part of a Pre-graduation Experience Record with Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO).Such a record will simplify the process of applying for a P.Eng. Licence later in your career.

  • All CO-OP students are required to submit a report for each four-month section of a work term.  Students doing an eight-month work term will submit two reports (an interim report after four months and a final report after eight months) and students doing a 12-month work term will submit a total of three reports (two interim reports after four and eight months, as well as a final report after 12 months).
  • The work-term report is to be submitted online. Be sure to check under “Upcoming Key Dates” on the CO-OP program website for the exact deadline.

Writing and submitting your work-term report is best done over the course of several months.

  • Early in the work term: Select and complete three uOCompetency learning modules found in the Virtual Campus (BrightSpace) CO-OP course under section 1.3 of the Work Term Excellence module. Preparethree uOCompetency development objectives with your supervisor and input them into the COOP Navigator under the Mid-Term Evaluation link (see under My Evaluations tab). Develop reflections on your experience and input them into the COOP Navigator. Your objectives and reflections are material that you can use for your work-term report.
  • Mid-point of the work term: Meet with your supervisor to discuss your three competency development objectives, reflections, the mid-term evaluation and the type of work-term report that you will complete. If the employer requires that you complete a confidential report, then you MUST get permission to proceed from your CO-OP academic coordinator.
  • End of the work term: Attend the final evaluation with your supervisor. We recommend submitting your work-term report to your employer for their approval one week before the end of your work term.
  • The following session: Complete the student evaluation of the work term in the COOP Navigator. Submit the two components of the work-term report: (1) cover letter, (2) work-term report.
  • As for any course at the University of Ottawa, you may write the cover letter and your work-term report in English or French. However, for a Type 2 confidential report, the employer determines the language.
  • To ensure your report meets the expected literary quality, we recommend that you have your work-term report reviewed and critiqued by the Academic Writing Help Centre (AWHC), your employer, a professor, friends or family.
  • Reports that do not meet the expected standard for literary quality will automatically receive a failing grade.

Each work-term report must be presented as a technical report. The focus should be on technical aspects of projects undertaken, with good analytic content. Some work-term placements can be more managerial or organizational in nature. These placements still offer relevant engineering experiences and can be described in a technical manner.  Ideally, students with more managerial placements will be providing organizational support for technical projects.  It is the student's responsibility to take the opportunity to learn about such technical projects and include some of this information in their report.

All work-term reports should conform to the following general structure:

  • Cover letter
  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures (if figures are used)
  • List of tables (if tables are used)
  • Glossary (optional; for acronyms and specialized terms)
  • Body of work-term report (introduction, technical experience, outcomes and reflections, conclusions)
  • References
  • Appendices (optional)

The cover letter should be professionally written, single-spaced, succinct, and should follow appropriate business format.  Please address it to your CO-OP academic coordinator.

The cover letter must contain the following information:

  • Your full address (your permanent address and University e-mail address)
  • Date
  • Recipient's address
  • Salutation
  • Subject
  • Your CO-OP course code
  • Name of employer and name of supervisor
  • Position held and/or position title
  • Acknowledgements to your supervisor and those at the work term site who supported you
  • A short description of your work
  • Your own overall evaluation of this work term
  • The uOCompetencies selected for your work-term
  • Your hand-written or digital signature, your name and student number

Include the work-term report title. Include your name, student number, course code and report submission date.

Include a 100-to-200-word (up to one page) abstract describing and summarizing the work-term report. The abstract should be self-explanatory and provide the reader with a summary of the contents of the work-term report.

Include the ToC in all reports. The list of figures (including page numbers) should be generated if there are figures (and appropriate figures are strongly encouraged for better comprehension). Similarly, the list of tables (including page numbers) should be generated if there are tables.  The list of figures should include the figure caption and the list of tables should include the table titles.

The main body of the report should include the following sections clearly marked and numbered. These main sections can be further organized into appropriate subsections.


This section is typically one-to-two pages for a final report, or one page for an interim report

  • Briefly describe the organization you worked for (Branches, Departments, and Work units). Include general information, such as the size, history, and industry of the organization.
  • Identify your role within the organization.
  • Briefly describe your work-term duties and responsibilities. 
  • Within your introduction, outline the work and summarize the projects you undertook, but save more detail for those described in the body of your report Note that the introduction differs from the abstract (use discretion as to what you mention for confidential work).
  • Importantly, the introduction should serve to introduce the topic of the report, define it and finally divide the report in sections.

Description of Work-Term Duties

This section should be eight-to-10 pages for a final report, or four-to-six pages for an interim report.

Describe, in sufficient detail, the main aspects of your work term. Typically, students should choose and describe one or two projects undertaken during their work term. A typical structure is:

  • Discuss a project or problem faced by you, the company, or its customers.
  • Present alternatives considered in order to solve it.  Include technical analysis of options.
  • Describe the criteria used to assess the alternatives, and the major pros and cons of the alternatives in terms of these criteria.
  • Discuss your decision and the resulting outcomes and consequences. You can/should support the outcomes with data acquired during the work term.
  • For ongoing projects, describe plans for the advancement of the project.

Avoid simply listing daily activities.

This section of the report should be presented as a technical report.  It is understood that some work terms are less technical in nature.  These placements still offer relevant engineering experiences and can be described in a technical manner.  Even if your specific job was not overly technical, hopefully your work was in support of technical projects.  The technical aspects of these projects should be described in your report.

Provide enough details so that the CO-OP academic coordinator, who may not be familiar with the organization or the topic of the report, can easily follow the context.

Outcomes and Reflections

This section is typically two-to-four pages.

Your work-term report should include your reflections on uOCompetencies developement objective outcomes.

Reflecting on your work term as a whole, you are required to explain the three elements below:

  1. Summarize how the threeuOCompetencies development objectives that you and your supervisor set at the beginning of your placement helped you gain workplace skills.  If possible, clearly state each of the three objectives, using the SMARTS system. Identify how each objective is related to the uOCompetencies. Include a detailed explanation of the approach used to achieve the work-term objectives, any graphs, as well as describing the results obtained.
  2. Summarize how this CO-OP placement builds on your academic background and how it will help you with future studies. Explain the relationship between certain courses or laboratories that you have taken at the university and the new skills acquired during your work term. How do you think you might combine the two in a future job, co-op placement or studies?
  3. Reflect on your CO-OP placement. Work-term reflections allow you to assess your performance with a critical eye and deepen your reflections on your career and your professional ambitions. By putting everything in writing, you will also be able to more easily create links not only between your work-term and your program, but also between your aptitudes, values ​​and your convictions - an important aspect for determining a rewarding professional path. In many careers, self-reflection on performance is an integral part of the lifelong learning process.

Here are some example questions to guide your reflections.

  • What did you get out of your co-op interview process? Based on this experience, what will you do differently next time?
  • Are you surprised by the skills you are in the process of acquiring during your work-term, or by certain specific skills or preferences that you discovered? Are there any skills that you would have liked to have learned?
  • How did you develop, use or improve the selected uOCompetencies during your last CO-OP work-term?
    • Have you observed any of these competencies practiced by your classmates, colleagues, supervisors or managers? If so, how?
    • How does your workplace contribute to promoting these competencies within its company policies or sector of activity/industry?
  • What were your expectations for your co-op work-term? Were they satisfied? Why?
  • Do you have a better idea of the type of co-op work-term you would like to get next time? Explain your answer.


This section is typically one page.

This is where you summarize the results as a whole of your CO-OP work-term projects and the learning experience. Constructive feedback, either to the employer, the CO-OP and Careers Office, or the Engineering program as a whole, is also more than welcome.

  • double-spaced text, 12-point standard font (Times, Times Roman, etc.)
  • one-inch margins (top, bottom, left, right)
  • italics, as needed, but no underlining
  • numbered pages, "page 1" is the beginning of the report body (Introduction), Roman numerals should be used for the front matter.
  • section and subsection headers should be numbered and referenced in the table of contents
  • tables and figures should be numbered sequentially (e.g., Table 1, Table 2, Figure 1, Figure 2). Figure captions should be at the bottom of the figure and table titles at the top of the table. All figures and tables presented throughout the body of the report must be referenced in the text. Figures and tables taken from another document must be properly cited in their title or caption.

All work-term reports must have proper punctuation, spelling, capitalization, abbreviations, headings, quotations, numbers, tables, and figures. Contractions are not recommended in such formal reports; avoiding them also helps mistakes such as it’s vs its. In addition, avoid bias in language.

Footnotes and endnotes should not be used. Relevant information, which might normally be placed in a footnote or endnote, should be included in the work-term report text.

Any work-term report that does not meet minimum standards for spelling, grammar, and format of presentation will automatically receive a failing grade.

  • For final reports at the end of a placement, the work-term report should be between 10 and 15 pages, from "Introduction" to "Conclusion". This number does not include the abstract, table of contents, references and appendices.
  • For interim reports at the four- or eight-month mark of longer placements, the expected length is between 5 and 10 pages.
  • Reports that meet the page requirements by using excessive white space or large graphics are not considered to fulfill the page requirement.

Any information or content taken from other sources (books, tutorials, articles, manuals,   online sites, etc.) must be properly referenced. This is done so that the reader can find the original source of information, if needed. References providing further information on technologies, products, tools, etc. should also be included.

The items in the list of references must be cited in the text where they are relevant. There are two acceptable formats for citing other work (choose only one):

The author-date system (e.g., APA style):

In this system, a citation consists of the last name of the author(s) and date of publication. The date is always surrounded by parentheses. The author's name may be included as part of the text, or within the parentheses. For works with more than two authors, the citation is for the first author et al. Examples:

According to Smith et al. (2013), HVAC installations represent 20% of the cost of many building renovations.

The thermal efficiency of power plants in this region has increased by 30% over the past 40 years (Doe and Miller 2014).

The numbered system (e.g., IEEE style):

In this system, citations consist of numbers enclosed in square brackets, and multiple citations can be included within one set of brackets. Even if a work is cited more than once, it is only assigned a single, unique number. Examples:

  • The pump outlet pressure should be maintained at 103 kPa [2].
  • Computer simulations have become a very important tool in the field of fracture mechanics [1], [2], [3], [5], [8].

References should be collected in a section at the end of the document, but before any appendices. If the author-date system is used, reference should be organized alphabetically, according to the primary author's last name, and should not be numbered. If the numbered system is chosen, references may either be numbered in the order of first citation in the main text or alphabetically by the primary author's last name. Numbered references must be ordered numerically in the references section.

In a reference, provide as much information as possible to best describe it (names, title, publisher, pages, URL or DOI, year, etc.), even for websites (which often have authors mentioned).

Sample references:

  • Articles:
    Habron, G. (2002), “Breathing Life Into the Case Study Approach: Active Learning in an Introductory Natural Resource Management Class.” Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 13: 41-58.
  • Books:
    Bruner, J. (1990) Acts of Meaning.  Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Web pages:
    Anderson, J., Reder, L., and Simon, H. (1995) "Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education." Retrieved June 29, 2002, from

If you are using Word, you may be interested to learn how to manage and use references in this YouTube video.

  • Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Eighth Edition. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2016. (accessed Aug. 23, 2017)
  • Turabian, Kate L. Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations. Eighth edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. (accessed Aug. 23, 2017)
  • There are a number of books on business report writing on the fourth floor of the Morisset Library. (They begin with the call number HF 57.) Books on technical writing can be found on the sixth floor. (They begin with the call number T 11.)

You must discuss the issue of potential confidentiality with your supervisor well before you start writing your report. Employers will not want you to publicly reveal information that exposes company trade secrets, makes the company look bad, exposes the company to potential lawsuits, or gives other useful information to competitors.

You must make every effort to avoid a report that your employer is not willing to let faculty members read. This is for two reasons: We want to learn about what you are doing, and we want to ensure that you are treated in the same way as other CO-OP students.

You should choose a topic that is not confidential to avoid this problem. Even if the bulk of your work is highly confidential, you can normally discuss issues that are non-confidential. Another approach that is often possible is to carefully mask confidential information by changing names, omitting key details, etc. If you do mask information, you should say so in the report and the cover letter.

You can explain to your employer that work-term reports are not made officially 'public' in any way. Nevertheless, this might not be enough to satisfy your employer.  If you cannot avoid confidentiality in your report, ask your employer if they would allow only the Academic Coordinator to see it. The Coordinator can sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) if the company so desires. If your employer allows you to proceed this way, you must then make all necessary arrangements with the Academic Coordinator.  You must get permission from the Academic Coordinator by e-mail at least six weeks before the end of the work term. If you are granted permission to follow this approach, you must then hand in the report in a sealed envelope to the CO-OP and Careers Office with the cover letter attached to the outside of the envelope.

If none of the above works, a confidential report must be submitted.  You must get permission from the Academic Coordinator by e-mail at least six weeks before the end of the work term to submit a confidential report. If you are granted permission to follow this approach, you should submit your completed report along with the evaluation sheet (Appendix A) to an internal evaluator at your workplace.  The name and contact information of this evaluator must be provided to your Academic Coordinator.  Before the regular report due date, you must submit a copy of your report with the confidential material removed along with the completed evaluation sheet to the COOP Navigator.  It is expected that all confidential material is contained within the "Description of Work-Term Duties" section of your report.  At a minimum, you should be able to submit all other components of your report to the Navigator.  Though you will submit a completed evaluation form from your placement, your final grade is determined by your Academic Coordinator.

  • CO-OP academic coordinators are professors in your discipline who are responsible for the marking of your work-term reports.
  • The assignment is marked as “pass” or “fail” (official grade), along with feedback on the quality of your report. Please see Appendix A for general guidelines and the evaluation form that will be used to assess your report.
  • If your report is judged unsatisfactory (fail), you may be given a one-time opportunity to submit a revised version within a prescribed period of time. Please note that a “fail” affects your cumulative grade point average and results in dismissal from the CO-OP program.
  • Once your report has been marked (allow six weeks after the report submission date), you will be notified.
  • Note: All references to the CO-OP academic coordinator include their delegate.

The work-term report will be evaluated using five criteria. Recommendations are provided to help guide you towards achieving high-quality results for each criterion (outlined below). A failing grade for any one of the criteria will result in a failure of the report.

Each of the criteria is included in the Work-Term Report Evaluation Form, which will be used by your CO-OP academic coordinator to assess your assignment (Appendix A). It is recommended that you use it as a self-assessment tool throughout the writing process.

The report must comply with the guidelines, criteria and conventions set by the Department.

  • Adhere to the work-term report style and guidelines.
  • Your report will be evaluated for its presentation, structure and literary quality.
  • Self-assess by asking, “Does the report follow the rules and conventions?”
  • Avoid being rushed.

The concepts, terms and principles used in the report must be used precisely.

  • Use materials from your work term and from your academic field as resources.
  • Add a glossary if the text includes numerous technical terms.
  • Use figures, graphs or tables for clarity and to shorten your text.
  • Include an appendix for items such as lengthy tables and computer code.
  • Self-assess by asking, “Does the report demonstrate meticulousness?”
  • Avoid using Wikipedia as a primary source.

The work in the assignment is supported by analysis and scholarly references.

  • Use this criterion to showcase the quality of your report (show how well and how extensively you understand the concepts discussed, and how well you understand the significance of the work in the employer’s environment).
  • Refer to the methods, principles or theories in your course, explain how you have applied them, and provide scholarly references to support your points.
  • Use the literature from your academic program as material.
  • Describe your academic field so the reader understands the context of your learning.
  • Use your work-term reflections as material.
  • Self-assess by asking, “Does this report deepen my understanding of the work term?”
  • Avoid discussing basic learning outcomes, such as learning to use Microsoft Outlook. Avoid listing research and researchers.

The report is highly organized.

  • Adhere to work-term report guidelines and the evaluation form (Appendix A).
  • Link elements across the report structurally and conceptually.
  • Present your ideas clearly so the reader can follow along with ease.
  • Weave your ideas together in a way that piques the reader’s interest.
  • Self-assess by asking, “Is this report well organized and interesting?”
  • Avoid being rushed.

The content of the report must be relevant to the work term.

  • Use your job description, objectives, reflections and assignments, as well as the company website as resources.
  • Describe your work environment so the reader understands the context of your work term.
  • Describe the major tasks you completed. If the work was project-oriented, give a detailed write-up of one project and briefly describe a select number of other projects.
  • Self-assess by asking, “Does this report provide an overview of my work-term experience?”
  • Avoid simply listing daily activities.

Any material taken from other sources must be properly cited using one of the formats listed above. Text that is quoted directly must be surrounded by quotation marks or indented and separated from the main text.  Any student committing plagiarism will automatically receive a failing grade and will be subject to sanctions for academic fraud, according to the Faculty of Engineering Academic Regulations.

More information is available on the University of Ottawa website regarding academic integrity.