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Databases of the week: let's get technical with tech reports

February 4, 2020
Zac Painter
Technical reports

Technical reports are a form of the “grey literature” which is extremely important for researchers in a variety of fields. While most technical reports aren’t strictly “academic work”, they often contain valuable information for researchers. Finding technical reports can be tricky, and there are no real standards for how they can be accessed. Nonetheless, we have a few suggestions for you!

To find Stanford-owned or Stanford-produced technical reports, you generally need to go into Searchworks and look for the name of the lab or other granting agency. This can sometimes be complicated, and it is not always clear what the access permissions for the report are. If you ever do need help, please do ask your librarian!

National Technical Reports Library (NTRL): Many technical reports from government agencies of the United States are located at the National Technical Reports Library, NTRL. While other sites like science.gov will also have lots of this kind of information, and many federal agencies -- like the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) and the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) -- will have their own repositories, NTRL is generally the most comprehensive listing of federal technical reports.

Technical Reports Archive and Image Library (TRAIL): TRAIL, in which Stanford is a member, is a collaborative digitization project which seeks to provide electronic access to US government agency technical reports that may be hard to access given their age. Federal Government Information Librarian James Jacobs and Engineering Librarian Zac Painter represent Stanford on the project, and recently retired Associate University Librarian for Science and Engineering Bob Schwarzwalder was one of the group's founders. Check out the series that TRAIL is focused on, from the Air Force to Water Resources Scientific Information Center.

WorldWideScience: Several international organizations and companies can be found at WorldWideScience, which seeks to aggregate technical reports from many different jurisdictions into one place. You will find quite a wealth of content from a wide variety of sources here.

Social Science Research Network: Think-tanks and preprint repositories often produce research papers and other content for use, often before they reach an official “academic stage”. One good example of this is the Social Science Research Network, SSRN. Other preprint servers like arXiv.org also fall under this category.

HP Labs: Finally, many corporations and companies will write public technical reports. While these documents are also occasionally for internal or restricted use only, often there are public facing documents from businesses about the research that they conduct. One example is this page from HP, although there are many other examples out there!

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