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Mentoring Manual

Documenting work

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Guide for mentors

Demonstrate good documentation skills. Provide examples, both of past students, your own work, and current students in the lab. Try showing students your own project notebooks. For groups that maintain primarily electronic files for a project, show how you organize and share your files. How do you retrieve information? How do you document the work so that the progression of the work is captured?

Recognize that students may have already developed habits of their own. Many undergraduate students have been in program where they are given specific guidelines on documentation. They may have had lab classes where all they do is fill in a document.

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Update reports

Update reports can serve the mentors, students, and program coordinator tremendously. While they may be more formal than is typical for a field experience, using an update report is an important skill that a student will need in their future education and professional life.

Considerations for why an update report will help you (the student):

During those final two weeks of the placement when a full report is being written, the update reports from the duration of the placement can be strung together to form the backbone if not most of the report.

Writing a report requires you to reflect on your work.

  • This will help with planning the next steps
  • Knowing that you need to submit a report will make you complete tasks: for example, completing a data analysis to the point of creating the plot or table that shows key facts.
  • A well written report will provide information for your mentor to provide the effective advice and assistance.

Key features of an update report are:

  • report goals are clear and stated within the report 
  • concise
  • information and the question(s) are focused
  • provide critical data
  • make a clear request of the reader
  • state the next work to be performed

Consider the following outline for an update report:

  1. Executive Summary.
    1. 2-5 sentences giving key points of the report.
    2. Write this after completing the update report.
  2. Report Goal and Action Request.
    1. Clearly state the goals of the report.
    2. Clearly state the actions that you want the reader to take.(Ask for a meeting, indicate needed materials, pose questions...).
  3. Work Accomplished.
    1. Summarize your accomplishments since the previous report.
    2. Include supporting data.
  4. Barriers.
    1. Identify work not completed as planned and the reason.
    2. Identify new barriers identified for future work.
    3. Identify resources or information needed from the mentor.
  5. Work Plans.
    1. Describe the planned work for the upcoming period.
      1. Decide on this with mentor.
    2. Address barriers and resource needs.
      1. If you know what will be done to overcome barriers – then state plan.
      2. If you need something – for example a meeting with the mentor to discuss the work – then state this.

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