CO-OP Work Term Report Guidelines - Addendum for SITE Programs

The objectives of work-term reports in SITE 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.

The following requirements are in addition to the general CO-OP work-term report requirements, and will help to ensure that reports submitted by SITE students meet the above objectives. The following applies to CO-OP students in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, Computer Science and any future SITE programs.

Length of Report

Your report must contain at least 10 pages of single-spaced text (12 point Times New Roman font or similar, using a standard report format). The main body of the report must be at least 5,000 words. You should also, in addition, include figures, tables, appendices, etc., as necessary. The total length of the report should not exceed 30 pages (15,000 words). Normal reports are the equivalent of 15 to 18 pages (7,500 to 9,000 words). Figures, tables, program listings, quoted material and the like do not count in report length.

Reports Must Be Analytical

The report must be analytical in nature. In other words, the report must do one or more of the following:

  • Explain why something is the way it is.
  • Give thoughtful commentary about what is good and bad about something (pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages).
  • Discuss problems faced by you, the company or its customers and explain how they were solved and why they were solved that way.
  • Discuss how something could be improved.

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.

Unity of Theme

Your report should mention all 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 topic, so it is a coherent in depth discussion of that topic 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 provided detailed discussion. 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 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 another topic 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, don't 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.


You must pay very careful attention to explain where all of the information in your report comes from. This means that you must give full references for all the ideas you talk about (not only quotations).

Remember that referencing material improperly exposes you to a charge of plagiarism. This serious academic offence results in a failed report and possibly further University sanctions (Consult and the examples shown there.).

You should include references even if the information is from an internal company source. If the information comes from an individual, you should give the reference as "Person's name, personal communication." If the information comes from a web page, your reference should include the title of the web page, the URL and the date you looked at the page.

The references should be given as a numbered list at the end of the report. When you mention an idea or quotation in the body of the report, cite the number of the corresponding bibliography item like this: [12].


Excessive numbers of spelling, typographic and grammatical errors are grounds for rejection of your report. If you are not proficient in the language of the report, make a special effort to become proficient, and carefully review your report before submitting it. All students are presumed to be able to write a report in clear, proper English or French, and lack of proficiency is not an acceptable excuse for a badly written report.

Type I and II Reports

You should write a Type II report unless there is no other reasonable alternative. Many students feel that their jobs have not been analytical in nature and that therefore they cannot do a Type II report. However, even if you did relatively mundane tasks, you can normally discuss problems you encountered and how you solved them. Your job does not have to be analytical for you to write an analytical report about it.

If you really feel that you cannot do a Type II report, you must contact the SITE Academic COOP Coordinator by email (see below) to get permission for this well in advance of the end of your work term. When you request permission, you must explain why you cannot do a Type II report, and include an outline of the proposed report as ASCII text. You may not proceed with your report unless you receive written confirmation by e-mail.

Most common types of reports written for employers fail to meet the above guidelines as they generally focus on the results or a product and not the student's role in the work:

  • reference manuals, user guides, configuration guides: never acceptable;
  • design documents: only acceptable if the bulk of the report focuses on explaining the rationale for design decisions and your role in those decisions;
  • specifications or requirements documents: unacceptable, unless the majority of the document explains in detail the rationale for the requirements and your role in the creation of the document;
  • research reports where you have gathered information on a certain topic: unlikely to be acceptable.

Reports edited by company staff are not acceptable, unless they were reviewed solely for confidentiality reasons.

If a report you have written for your employer does not meet the above criteria, you may still be able to take the report as it stands and enhance it so that it does meet the criteria—effectively creating a new document based on the original. If you do this, you should say so in your letter of transmittal. For example, if you have written a very long document with many technical details, you can cut out most of the technical details and enhance the analytical component as well as explain your role in the work.

If you are authorized to write a report other than a Type II, explain why you were not able to submit a Type II report in your letter of transmittal.


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, b) marking is done by some faculty member within SITE, and c) it is returned to you after it is marked. 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 can’t avoid confidentiality in your report, ask your employer if he or she would allow only one SITE 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 CO-OP Coordinator. You must get permission from the appropriate SITE CO-OP Coordinator by e-mail (see below) 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 Co-operative Education Programs Office with the letter of transmittal on the outside of the envelope.

Approval By Supervisor

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 _________________________

Feedback for Improvement of the Program

In your report or letter of transmittal, please consider the following issues and provide us with any feedback you may have so that we may make improvements:

  • How well have the courses you have taken in your program prepared you for your COOP work term? How could we improve our courses or programs?
  • Did your CO-OP work term provide a suitable environment for you to expand your knowledge and skills, and enhance your career? What could your employer, SITE or the CO-OP office improve?

Contacting a SITE 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 SITE Academic CO-OP Coordinator. You should do this by e-mail since the Coordinators have 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 CO-OP guidelines and these SITE 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.

Here are the e-mail addresses of the SITE Academic CO-OP Coordinators:

Please allow a few days for the Coordinators to answer your message. Note that during the summer, they often take lengthy vacations; so make sure you don’t leave your questions or requests until the last minute.

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