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Research Guides

Technical Reports: Home

This guide will talk about the different kinds of technical reports, why you might use them and how to find them.

What's in this Guide

This guide will help you understand the purpose of a technical report and its role in engineering research. You will also find suggested starting points for researching  technical reports and what you need to know to find them in the UW Libraries or elsewhere.

What Are Technical Reports


Technical reports are publications published to convey results of research usually funded by government or corporate bodies. When the government performs or sponsors research, they may require that a report of the research be published as a way to maintain public disclosure. Technical reports describe the process of engineering or scientific research and often include in-depth details including raw data. Technical reports are most familiar to engineers, geologists, and physicists, but are usually not peer-reviewed. They are generally published as numbered series bearing the acronym of the issuing agency, the series code, and an accession number. For more information on the history of technical reports, the Science Reference Services of the Library of Congress has a useful overview here.

Recognizing Technical Reports:

Often times, you can identify a technical report from its citation or reference. Recognizing a technical report will help you determine where to look for the report. In particular, a technical report citation will include a report number and will probably not have journal or publisher information. 

Technical reports can be divided into three 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).

    Academic Departments also publish technical reports- run an Author search in the UW Libraries Search for: University Of Washington Dept Of Civil Engineering .
  2. Governmental Reports- the research conducted in these reports has been wholly or partly 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).
  3. Computer Science Technical Reports - these are also mostly from Computer Science and Engineering departments at various universities. Many of these are freely available online.