A few weeks ago, we received a comment on one of our open threads asking for advice on writing annual reviews, documents that come in all shapes and sizes and are done for a range of purposes. Most of them are tied tightly to their particular institutional contexts, but a few general thoughts did come to my mind.
Know the purpose of your annual report. Reports can be used in different ways, and you should really know who will read yours and why. Is your continued employment based on it? Does it affect any possible raises or other benefits? Is it just for your chair or will your dean see it, too?
Know how you can put the report to use. One of the best pieces of advice I was given before I wrote my first annual review was to think of it as a draft of my tenure dossier. In other words, I was encouraged to put in as much detail as possible about my student evaluations and acceptance rates for journals and conferences so that I would not have to put in as much effort when it came time to apply for tenure and promotion. That turned out to be incredibly true.
Keep records throughout the year. If you try to collect everything you need to write your report–student evaluations, conference proceedings, committee agendas–when you start to write it, you will forget something. I have a file folder for every class I teach where I put the evaluations and anything else that is not already in the file on my computer for the course. I also have a folder for everything related to scholarship and professional development and another for everything related to service. As the year progresses, I throw notes and other things into these folders as they happen. When I give a lecture on the MCAT to pre-med students, I throw a note into the service file to remind me of it. When I lead a book discussion at the local library, I add another note. When it comes time to write the reports, I grab the files and find several things I would have forgotten about without the reminders.
Ask for sample reports from senior colleagues. In my first post for Prof. Hacker, I wrote about how helpful it was when senior faculty gave me copies of grant applications and tenure files. The same goes for annual reviews. If I had not taken a look at what senior faculty were doing, I would not have realized what I could put in these reports and how much detail they could contain.
What about you? Do you have anything to offer on ways of approaching these documents? Let us know in the comments, please.