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Bevier Engineering Library
Library Research Guide for Engineers
technical report is a written summary of processes or products created
by an engineer or group of professional engineers. They describe laboratory
studies, field studies or case studies, and they are excellent sources
of information on primary research, specific experiments and materials
trials. A technical report is often the only communication of that work
to people outside of the research team.
Technical reports are
usually released quickly after a project is completed; therefore, they
are one of the most current sources of information on new developments.
They do not go through any sort of publication channels and are not peer
reviewed, or even edited most of the time. They are, however, often the
only way to learn specific details about the creation of a product or process.
Technical Reports are often difficult to find because
they are not published and disseminated to the public like journal
articles, conference papers or
They often stay within the company or department in which they were created.
Finding technical reports might require searching several of the following
- Technical or Science and Engineering Libraries
Many libraries collect technical reports published
by University-related institutions or on issues of particular interest
to their students. For example, the Engineering
& Science Library at Carnegie Mellon University has an extensive
paper collection of technical reports published by companies and research
centers in electrical and computer engineering, robotics, mathematics and
applied philosophy. CMU also holds the second-largest collection
of computer science technical reports in the country. You can contact CMU
and other libraries directly to receive reports or, if you are part
of the University of Pittsburgh Community, you can fill out an Requests From Other Libraries Request, and order it through the University Library System (ULS).
- Company or Agency Libraries
Some companies, like Microsoft,
will publish their own technical reports or create a database for them
for the public. Others might develop a collection of technical reports
within their corporate libraries. Contact companies individually to obtain
copies of this information.
- Academic Computer Science Departments
Currently, many academic computer science departments
are collecting the technical reports they create and making them available
online. Some examples include Columbia
University's Technical Report Archive and Carnegie
Mellon University School of Computer Science's Technical Report Collection.
- Government Technical Report Servers
Government related technical reports are typically
written to report progress on the development of a process or product to
the government agency that sponsored the research. The Federal government
sponsors research in almost all areas of engineering. This includes aerospace,
civil, computer and environmental.
The National Technical Information Service (NTIS)
acts as a clearinghouse for all of the technical reports on government
sponsored research since 1991 and one-half to two-thirds of the reports
since its inception in 1945. Search NTIS
to find citations to governmental technical reports since 1990. After finding
the citation, you will need to search PITTCat to see if it is held
in the ULS's Government Depository Collection or submit an Requests From Other Libraries request to obtain the document from another library. You can also
order the publications directly from NTIS with a credit card (This is often
If you are looking for information that has been
produced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), two
resources will be of help. First, the NASA Center for AeroSpace Information
Technical Report Server, RECONselect,
contains 2.2. million citations and abstracts to aerospace documents, including
technical reports. Recent full-text technical reports have been placed
online on an experimental basis on the NASA
Technical Report Server (NTRS). It's often helpful to search this component
of NASA information first, as its records are full-text.
- Technical Report Online Centers
Several massive online collections of technical reports
have begun in recent years. These organizations, which might be sponsored
by academic initiatives, private industry or government agencies, solicit
technical reports from hundreds of institutions and companies and collect
them into one resource. Two examples are the Networked
Computer Science Technical Reference Library (NCSTRL) and the University
of Maryland's Virtual
Technical Reports Center. Additional links are available on the Engineering
Subject Guide under "Technical Reports."
Brown, J.F. (1985) A Student Guide to Engineering Report Writing.
Solana Beach, CA: United Western Press.
Robinson, Judith Schiek. (1998) Tapping the Government Grapevine:
The User-Friendly Guide to U.S. Government Information Sources. Phoenix,
AZ: Oryx Press.