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Technical Reports

A guide to technical reports: what they are, where they come from, how to find them.

Recognizing Technical Reports

You can identify a technical report from its citation or reference. This will help you determine where to look for the report. A technical report citation will include a report number and will probably not have journal or publisher information. 

Technical reports can be divided into two general categories:

  1. Non-Governmental Reports- these are published by engineering societies, such as AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautical and Astronautics), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), or SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).
  2. Governmental Reports- the research conducted in these reports has been sponsored by the United States or an international government body.

All agencies of the U.S. Federal and State Government issue reports.

For example: DOE (Dept. of Energy), NASA (National Aeronautics and Astronautics), DOT (Dept. of Transportation), DOD (Department of Defense).

Steps to Finding Technical Reports

Technical reports can be a challenge to locate. Some are cataloged as books in the CAT, in databases, on microfiche, or free online.

Follow these steps to locate a technical report. If the report cannot be found using one method proceed, to the next step.

  1. Confirm the title and locate the report number in NTIS.
    1. Example:
      1. Title: Environmental Control System Selection for Manned Space Vehicles
      2. Report Number: ASSDTR-61-240-V2-P1
  2. Search LionSearch or the CAT by title.
  3. Search relevant databases.
  4. Search Google Scholar. This should provide a citation and determine if the technical report was also published in a journal or conference proceeding. Journals and conference proceedings can be searched in the CAT to see if Penn State has access to them.
  5. Search HathiTrust by report number, issuing agency, author, or title.
  6. Search WorldCAT to see if another university owns the technical report. These can be borrowed using the interlibrary loan system.
  7. Contact a librarian to search the uncatalogued, print microfiche collections.
  8. If you cannot locate a technical report using any of these methods, contact a librarian, there are additional procedures for borrowing or purchasing technical reports, as needed for researchers.