Skip to Main Content

Technical Reports

Technical Reports Primer

Technical or scientific reports describe the progress or results of scientific or technical research and development.  They are often created by Federal government agencies or they may be funded or sponsored by government agencies but prepared by research institutions, universities, think tanks, or other governmental or non-governmental agencies.  Publication and dissemination of technical reports has never been centrally coordinated; therefore, they can be particularly difficult to identify and locate.

There are 8 major types of technical reports as defined by COSATI (Committee on Scientific and Technical Information).

Please Note: Some technical reports may be classified and unavailable to the general public.   Most agency search systems will note if a report is classified.

Technical reports usually appear as part of a numbered series from the issuing agency. These numbers are important and are often the easiest way to find a specific report or document. Each agency has its own numbering system, however technical report number systems follow some common forms.

Many bibliographic references will include report numbers.  The report numbers may take different forms.  Examples might follow these formats:

  • PB97-100934
  • DE87 900540
  • N90-25278
  • NASA-TM-103200
  • NUREG-0940
  • EPA-600/S3-83-023
  • DOE/CS-0024/14
  • CONF (followed by numbers….)

DOE, NASA and the Department of Defense are top sponsors and EPA is another important agency with substantial technical report work.  A number of U.S. Government sponsors now make technical reports available full text online.

Technical reports at the UC Davis Library are located in the Shields Library stacks by subject or filed in the microforms collection.  Those items filed in the microforms collection are located in cases in Shields Lower level in the microform room. Note that microfiche technical report series are located in a corner of Shields Lower Level in the back end of the B stacks on the far South of the building.

Major sources of technical report literature with collection notes:

U.S. Department of Energy

Shields Library has a collection of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Reports and predecesor agencies, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) in microfiche. Most fiche are filed in the microfiche collection on the lower level of Shields Library.


Shields Library has NASA and older NACA reports in microfiche. Most fiche are filed in the microfiche collection in the lower level of Shields Library, however, some are in the Physical Sciences and Engineering Library.


NTIS (National Technical Information Service) reports are received in microfiche selectively. For example, many reports contracted by or produced by the Environmental Protection Agency are received and are typically filed by their PB numbers.

Archival Index to Historic Technical Reports