Technical reports usually originate in federal government agencies, but may also come from academic institutions, state or foreign governments, and private firms and organizations. They contain results of research carried out in government labs or on government contracts or, in the case of private companies, for in-house, proprietary use. They are often cited in the literature using obscure report numbering systems or vague and incomplete references, and they can be quite difficult to verify and obtain. In past decades some libraries participated in large microfiche depository programs run by DOE and NTIS, but these were phased out after the 1990s. While thousands of legacy federal agency reports have been digitized in recent years by various parties, many older and non-federal reports that are held in libraries exist only in paper or microform, often with little or no cataloging or inventory. Many more have likely vanished altogether. Consult a librarian for assistance.
Technical reports are not typically indexed by the major literature abstracting services, although some can be found in SciFinder, Compendex, and a few others. Some of the tools below serve as both indexes and full text repositories, and should be your first stop in a search. Searching a report number or title in Google can sometimes provide good leads, although in many cases these will be citations in other documents rather than full text.
The DOE and its predecessor agency the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) were prodigious producers of technical reports over the decades since WWII. They issued millions of reports under a bewildering array of laboratories, sub-agencies, series, conferences and numbering systems. The library guide at Cornell has a helpful table of important DOE report series.
Getting hold of DOE-sponsored reports that have not been digitized (most reports before 1995) can be very challenging. After World War II the AEC, its successors ERDA (1975-77) and DOE (1977-) issued unclassified reports in paper and some microform via their own depository programs. From the early 1980s through the mid-1990s DOE/OSTI ran a massive microfiche depository program for participating libraries that was separate from the NTIS SRIM and GPO depository programs. Unfortunately these reports were rarely cataloged by owning libraries, and many have since been discarded or placed in remote storage; as a result it's nearly impossible to identify a library that may still have a particular report. UT Austin did not participate in the full DOE program and has since withdrawn the selected reports we did receive.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.