Every field archaeologist knows that there is plenty more work to be done on a project once the digging is finished and the compound packed up and taken away, but humble diggers often don’t get to spend much time on the writing up stage of projects. I was offered the chance to do a two-month report writing secondment in the research team; an opportunity to see what happens to the data we collect in the field and have a go at helping to write up the results, as well as to temporarily rejoin the ranks of the pampered, smooth-skinned, clean-fingernailed office worker.

The secondment is a bit of a trial in giving field staff a more formal opportunity to learn about reporting. From my point of view, as a career changer who is relatively new to archaeology, I want to have a go at as many different tasks within the discipline as possible.

On my first Monday in the office I arrive at 9.00 instead of the usual 6.45. I’m used to being in the office on a Monday morning and a Friday afternoon, but I’ll have to get accustomed to the rhythm of spending the working week here. After getting my workstation, login and system access set up I have a morning of training that covers the essentials of report writing – check the Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI), don’t be too wordy, use the style guide - and also touches on the delights of Access databases and Union Square (US), the project management system we use. As with most things, the best way to learn is by doing, so off I go with a project code and a site archive to try to make sense of.

I’m now about half way through the secondment and, so far, I have helped to set up and prepare watching brief and evaluation reports, collated images and updated progress reports for a large ongoing evaluation, proof-read and edited existing reports and updated project records on US. I’ve been reminded how many people contribute to the production of archaeological knowledge, and how important it is that individuals and teams work together (but, perhaps, don’t always), and I’m starting to pick up the Wessex Archaeology style and see how a report comes together.

I’ve written countless essays and reports before but learning new ways of doing things is always a bit daunting. However, the real challenge is not in the writing, but in making sense of the information collected and produced on site – a reminder of the importance of thorough recording in the field and producing a well-ordered archive, so that the data collected can then be fully utilised. I’m looking forward to continuing this secondment and, hopefully, improving my reporting experience and skills (and also to getting back out in the field one day and getting mud on my boots again).

By Emma Metcalfe