I am currently doing some research and a reference from 1982 has been cited in several more recent papers. The nature of the citations suggest this was a pivotal reference in the theory & practice related to my research so I am very keen to review it. The reference is a technical report - not a published article or book - that was issued by a university department. (The university is in the USA and not in my country). I have contacted the department in question but have received no reply. I have contacted authors that have cited the technical report - again no luck. I have exhausted online searches, including trying to track down the original authors online.

So I'm after any final suggestions (barring traveling to the university in person) as to how I could get a copy before I, reluctantly, move on without the reference.

  • 2
    You could contact the department head/chair under these circumstances, I think. Or is there some reason your original message didn't go through?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 25 at 11:42
  • 10
    Or contact the library of the university. They often keep such resources and are unlikely to ignore you.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 25 at 11:50
  • 19
    Have you talked to your librarian? They are pretty good at tracking stuff down. Commented Jun 25 at 11:54
  • 7
    As noted by @MaartenBuis, something like this would be the highlight of the summer for a good research librarian. Let the professionals work on it.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 25 at 12:31
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    To be clear, I have done this - I was looking for a report from a foreign entity from the early 1960s, often referenced back then for charged particle bunching techniques. My local research librarian found one of the few (out of several hundred) remaining copies that had been provided to universities in my country at the time. I scanned it to PDF and OCR'd it, and returned the physical copy and the file to the institution that provided it. But the hard work was done by the librarian.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 25 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


As noted in comments, you should contact the librarian at your own university and also the research librarian at the university at which the report was done.

Many university libraries maintain copies of such research reports and can send a copy to you or your library.

But, if several weeks have passed you can follow up, perhaps with an email to the department head, asking for assistance in finding the resource and in finding/contacting the authors.

However, it is also true that some things of this nature are just lost. You may have to use secondary sources to provide proper citation of the original. The papers that cite the original may have enough in them so that you can proceed, even if somewhat blindly.

  • 9
    If you follow secondary sources, please state this properly. Otherwise people will reach out to you and ask for a copy of the technical report and you will be embarrassed to not having it yourself.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Jun 25 at 20:46

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