CO-OP Work Term Report Guidelines for Engineering Programs - Appendix A: SEG-Specific Guidelines

1. Objectives

The objectives of work-term reports in your SEG program are to help you to:

  • Develop technical writing skills;
  • Develop skills in analytical thinking and design;
  • 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, and the SEG program committee, in order to improve student experience.
2. Successful Terms and Report Lengths
2.1 Successful Term

For a CO-OP term to be successful, the evaluation of the supervisor must be good and the evaluation of the report must result in a Pass. The evaluation grid in Appendix B is used to support the evaluation. If any of the criteria is evaluated to Not satisfactory of Needs improvement, then the student will be provided feedback and a chance to (quickly) Resubmit a revised version to the evaluator (by email). If such issues are not fixed by the end of the semester following the CO-OP term, then the CO-OP report is a Fail, and so is the corresponding CO-OP term/course.

2.2 Report Lengths

A report must be submitted for each CO-OP term. However, the expected length varies with the number of successful CO-OP terms previously done:

  • First CO-OP term (T1, likely SEG2901): The body of the report must include a minimum of 2,500 words.
  • Second and third CO-OP terms (T2-T3, likely SEG3901/SEG3902): The body of the report must include a minimum of 3,500 words.
  • Fourth and fifth CO-OP terms (T4-T5, likely SEG4901/SEG4902): At this point, if you already have successfully completed 3 CO-OP terms with full reports, the remaining reports (for T4 and T5) can be limited to the cover letter + one or two additional pages providing recommendations (based on your CO-OP term) to the employer, the CO-OP and Careers office, and the SEG program committee (see Section 6).

You should also, in addition, include figures, tables, appendices, etc., as necessary. Tables of content, lists, figures, tables, program listings, and references do not count in report length.

3. Reports Must Be Analytical

The report must be analytical in nature. In other words, the body of the report must include several analyses with the following pattern:

  • Discuss a problem or issue faced by you, the company, or its customers
  • Present alternatives considered in order to solve it (likely with references if these are, e.g., technologies or algorithms)
  • 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 also reflect, after the facts, about whether this was the right decision or whether there is still room for improvement.

Many students feel that their jobs have not been analytical in nature. However, even if you did relatively mundane tasks, you can normally discuss problems you encountered (including social ones) and how you solved them. Your job does not have to be analytical for you to write an analytical report about it.

Reports filled with large amounts of technical facts are not acceptable. Technical facts should only be presented to justify an argument or to give just enough background material so that the reader can understand the remainder of the report.

If an analytical report cannot be produced, please contact the SEG CO-OP Coordinator as soon as possible (

4. Unity of Theme

Your report should mention the work you were asked to perform in the introduction so the reader clearly understand your entire work term duties, but then should concentrate on one or a couple of topics, so it is a coherent, in-depth discussion rather than a superficial report on many things. The introduction should explain the key ideas you will be discussing, with the body of the report providing a detailed description with analysis. The conclusion should summarize what you have said. The entire report should be written to an audience of other students in the same program as yourself, not your manager or the professor who might read your report later. Anything that you did not know from your studies to that point and that is needed to understand the report will have to be explained in the report.

It is important that all the information presented in the report be there for a valid reason. Do not add additional material just so the report is the required length, instead expand on the discussion to meet length requirements or choose other topics for the entire report. This applies also for appendices — only add appendices if they serve to justify points you have made in the body of the report. For example, do not include large amounts of source code; if you feel source code is truly necessary to illustrate points you are making — provide only a few samples (maximum 100 lines) and normally put these in an appendix.

5. General Work-Term Report Structure

Each work-term report should be presented as a technical report. The focus should be on technical aspects of projects undertaken, with good analytical 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. Personal statements or recommendations are encouraged and can be presented after the technical content in the conclusions.

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

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures (if any figure)
  • List of tables (if any table)
  • Glossary (optional; for acronyms and specialized terms)
  • Body of work-term report (introduction, results and discussion, conclusions)
  • References
  • Appendices (optional)
5.1. Title page

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

5.2. Abstract

Include a 100-to-250-word 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, including its main results.

5.3. Table of Contents (ToC) and Lists of Figures/Tables

Include the ToC in all full reports. The list of figures (including their page numbers) should be generated if there are figures (and figures are strongly encouraged for better comprehension). Similarly, the list of tables (including their page numbers) should be generated if there are tables.

If you are using Microsoft Word, you are encouraged to use paragraph styles and the automated generation of ToC and lists. YouTube contains many relevant tutorials (including this one from Dr. James Clark at King’s College London).

5.4. Introduction

Give a complete background of the projects you worked on or are working on, including the nature and the objectives. Detail the work and summarize the assignments, but give more detail for those described in the body of your report. Note that the introduction differs from the abstract.

It is common practice to have the introduction start on page 1. The pages preceding it are numbered i, ii, iii, etc.

5.5. Results and Discussion

This is where you expand on the technical aspects, from an analytical perspective. See Sections 3 and 4.

For final reports at the completion of a work term, include a detailed explanation of the projects undertaken, as well as the approach used to achieve the project objectives; also describe the results obtained. For interim reports submitted during eight- or twelve-month placements, it is understood that projects are likely not complete. A detailed explanation of the projects being undertaken should still be given. Plans for the advancement of any projects should be explained. When relevant, material from interim reports may be reused in the final report.

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

5.6. Conclusion

This is where you summarize the results and the learning experience. Constructive feedback is also more than welcomed, see Section 6.

6. Constructive Feedback for Improving the Student Experience

Please consider the following questions and provide us with any feedback you may have regarding:

  • Your employers: How might your employers improve the environment for CO-OP and/or improve their processes or products?
  • The CO-OP and Careers office: Did your CO-OP work term provide a suitable environment for you to expand your knowledge and skills, and enhance your career? How might the CO-OP process be improved? How can employers and their needs be better understood?
  • The SEG program: How well have the courses you have taken in your SEG program prepared you for your COOP work term? How could the courses or program be improved? How could companies be better engaged in terms of events/collaboration?
7. Editorial Guidelines

The body of the work-term report must follow these editorial guidelines:

7.1 Format
  • Single or double-spaced text (does not matter)
  • 12-point standard font (Times, Times Roman, or similar)
  • one-inch margins (top, bottom, left, right)
  • italics or bold for emphasis
  • page numbers, in the bottom-right corner of the page
  • section and subsection headers should be numbered and referenced in the table of contents
  • tables and figures numbered sequentially (e.g., Table 1, Table 2, Figure 1, Figure 2). Figure titles 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.
7.2 Style

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

7.3 Footnotes and endnotes

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.

7.4 References

Any information or content taken from other sources (books, tutorials, articles, manuals, online site, 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):

  1. 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 forty years (Doe and Miller 2014).

2.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 [1–3,5,8].


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 the primary author's last name and should not be numbered. If the numbered system is chosen, references may either 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 Web sites (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.

7.5 Additional Writing Resources
  • Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Eight 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. 8th edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. (accessed Aug. 23, 2017)
  • There are a number of books on business report writing on the 4th floor of the Morisset Library. (They begin with the call number HF 57.) Books on technical writing can be found on the 6th floor. (They begin with the call number T 11.)
8. Approval by Supervisor

In order to confirm that the content of the report was written by the student and can be shared, you must include a page signed by your supervisor at the end of your report with the following wording:

As supervisor of CO-OP student <your name>________________________, I, <supervisor's name>_________________ certify that, to the best of my knowledge, this report is entirely the student’s work and is free of confidential information to the extent that it can be read by university faculty members.


Date _________________________

The real signature is required here, not just a typed version. Reports without supervisor signatures will be rejected right away.

9. Confidentiality

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 can explain to your employer that, a) the document is not made officially 'public' in any way, and b) marking is done by some faculty member within EECS. Nevertheless, this might not be enough to satisfy your employer.

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 either the report or the letter of transmittal.

If you cannot avoid confidentiality in your report, ask your employer if he or she would allow only the SEG CO-OP Coordinator to see it. The Coordinator can sign a non-disclosure agreement if the company so desires. If your employer allows you to proceed this way, you must then make all necessary arrangements with the SEG CO-OP Coordinator. You must get permission from the SEG CO-OP Coordinator by e-mail ( at least one month 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 and CO-OP and Careers Office with the letter of transmittal on the outside of the envelope.

If none of the above works, a Type 2 report (confidential) must be submitted. See instructions on the CO-OP Work Term Report Guidelines for Engineering Programs; note that permission must be granted explicitly. In addition, you will be asked to provide the SEG CO-OP Coordinator with:

  • The name and email of your supervisor and, if the supervisor is not a P.Eng., the name and email of a second employee. They will both mark the report according to the guidelines and to the form in Appendix B.
  • The cover letter and the table of content (with some parts/terms obfuscated or anonymized if needed).
10. Plagiarism

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.

11. Contacting the SEG Academic CO-OP Coordinator

If your CO-OP work term involves unusual circumstances, and you are therefore unsure about whether your report meets the above requirements, you should contact a SEG Academic CO-OP Coordinator at You should do this by e-mail since the Coordinator has a large number of students to deal with, and a record of the discussion is important to have in case there is a problem later.

Before contacting the Coordinator, please re-read both the general guidelines from the Faculty of Engineering (based on the ones from the CO-OP and Careers office) and these SEG requirements again to ensure that your question has not been answered. In your e-mail, explain the difficulties you are having and provide the outline for your proposed report in the body of your message (not as an attachment). The Coordinator will then indicate whether you are on the right track. In the end, you remain responsible to ensure that your final report meets the requirements.

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