As someone who has recently gotten into the research world, I read a lot of preprints and occasionally dig up some technical reports to access older publications.

To me, it seems like technical reports were the paper version of preprints. Many technical reports appeared later as peer-reviewed articles or chapters of books. Nowadays, there are far fewer technical reports appearing. My department used to produce multiple dozens each year in the 70s and 80s, but they have only produced one so far this year.

Does this mean that preprints have taken the place of technical reports? Is there any reason why a researcher would choose to publish a technical report with their university or organization?

  • 1
    Welcome! Your second question is possibly a duplicate of When and why a scientific technical report is written?, but I haven't seen the other one before.
    – Anyon
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 21:22
  • I wish they were! Many people still submit them to some questionable journal, such as the "Lecture Notes" series. They may be dressed as something other than a technical report for citability reasons, though.
    – Nemo
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


While preprint archives certainly remove one of the major reasons that I used to submit technical reports, sometimes I find there's just no other appropriate title for a work.

To me, the whole notion of a preprint assumes intention to eventually publish in a journal, using a journal-style format and style of argumentation. There are a number of things that I write, however, that are worth archiving in citable form that just are not that.

In my own work, for example, I often end up producing formal project reports for funding agencies. These may incorporate material from papers or that will later be extracted for papers, but the report itself can be a valuable document, especially for talking about implementation details or negative results.

Likewise, highly technical documents such as specifications, architecture documents, standards, best practices recommendations, etc., can be extremely valuable, but are often not appropriate to publish as journal articles. One often also writes journal articles about such things, but there is a big difference between an article explaining the core concepts and value in a standard versus the full grinding detail of its complete specification.

I'm sure there are other examples as well, but the bottom line is this: "technical report" remains a nice catch-all name for any archival technical artifact that's a written document but not a journal article.

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