Research Progress Report/Prelim Document

The preparation and submission of the Research Progress Report/Prelim Document emphasizes your research accomplishment at an early stage. The report also provides practice in technical writing, an important part of graduate training. The report serves as a first concrete step toward the preliminary examination, and the revised and updated version will also serve as the written document that guides the examination. As such, the report demonstrates your accomplished research and an understanding of the project, and is used to measure (and correct) your organizational and technical writing ability. It should be completed with minimal input from the research advisor.


A written prelim document  will be submitted by each student to the Director of Graduate Studies Assistant no later than March 1 of the Spring semester of year two. If a student’s affiliation with a lab is delayed due to not completing the required coursework stipulated in Section C or placement on academic probation due to poor academic performance, the preliminary exam will not be deferred.

The report will be evaluated by all members of the student’s supervisory committee, each providing critical comments and suggestions for revisions, both on the prelim document itself and the Chemistry Thesis Assessment Protocol (ChemTAP) worksheets provided. The report and comments will be returned to the student by March 15. A final and updated version of this report will serve as the written document for the preliminary examination and will be considered part of the examination.

Report Structure

The report should normally include the following sections. The body of the document should contain no more than 2500 words, not counting figures, references, and any appended experimental details. Students are encouraged to consult the ACS Style Guide and/or research journals in their research area for guidance on matters of style and format.

  • Abstract of no more than 100 words.
  • Introduction section that should state the broad goals and specific aims of the research, point to the significance and/or relevance of the research, and should provide sufficient background to place the research in the context of past and ongoing work in the research area, e.g. the literature.
  • Methods - brief section outlining relevant methods employed in the research, with expanded experimental details appended outside the body of the document as necessary.
  • Results - this section should summarize progress to date.
  • Discussion section
  • Future Work

When submitting the final draft of preliminary exam document to the committee the student should also provide a summary of their changes.