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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

Technical reports describe the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research and usually include in-depth experimental details, data, and results. Technical reports are usually produced to report on a specific research need and can serve as a report of accountability to the organization funding the research. They provide access to the information before it is published elsewhere. Technical Reports are usually not peer reviewed.  They need to be evaluated on how the problem, research method, and results are described.  

A technical report citation will include a report number and will probably not have journal name. 

Technical reports can be divided into two general categories:

  1. Non-Governmental Reports- these are published by companies and engineering societies, such as Lockheed-Martin, 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 as well as state and local governments.

an infographic with the phrase technical reports in the center, with arm connecting it to types of reports, namely background reports, research report

Recommendations for Finding Technical Reports

Some technical reports are cataloged as books, which you can search for in the catalog, while others may be located in databases, or free online. The boxes below list databases and online resources you can use to locate a report. 

If you’re not sure where to start, try to learn more about the report by confirming the full title or learning more about the publication information. 

  • Confirm the title and locate the report number in NTRL. 

  • Search Google Scholar, the HathiTrust, or WorldCat. This can verify the accuracy of the citation and determine if the technical report was also published in a journal or conference proceeding or under a different report number. 

Having trouble finding a report through Penn State? If we don’t have access to the report, you can submit an interlibrary loan request and we will get it for you from another library. If you have any questions, you can always contact a librarian! 

Databases with Technical Reports