In the field of numerical modeling, Researchers often times find conference papers or journal articles which cites an internal report as the core of the paper. The main authors may have access to the internal report but what about the others? How does one cite an internal report in doing further research based on the main article?

As an example, This paper and this paper cite both of the papers below -

  1. M. Saeedvafa and R. J. Asaro, “Transformation Induced Plasticity,” (LAUR-95-482, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1995)

  2. Saeedvafa, M, “A Constitutive Model for Shape Memory Alloys”, Internal MSC Report, (January 2002).

  • 1
    Do you have a non-paywalled example?
    – JeffE
    Aug 12 '12 at 20:27
  • 1
    Look at the 2nd paper. Aug 13 '12 at 9:47

When you cite any source, you should give enough that the reader can, at least in principle, read that source for themselves. This information is especially important when you cite something as a source for further information, as it is in your example paper.

This paper presents the framework of such a complete phenomenological model outlined by Sayeedvafa (2002) that provides a description of a wide range of the observed behavior, which are both tractable from analytical as well as computational viewpoint.

For example, citations of technical reports (like your first example) should uniquely identify both the institution and the report, so that the reader knows who and how to ask for a copy. In particular, if the report is available on the web at a stable location, the citation should include a stable URL.

If a source is likely to be inaccessible to most readers (like your second example), you should also cite an accessible secondary source that describes the relevant content in detail. (If you really want to be helpful, the primary source citation should include a pointer like "Cited in [xxx].") Otherwise, you're just asking for the reader's blind trust that the source has the missing details you claim, or proves the result that you claim, or is as important as you claim, or even exists at all.


Citing a paper serves two roles. One is as a reference - a place for the reader to go and check the details. @JeffE's excellent answer deals with this case. For the completeness of the answer, let me discuss the other case.

The other role of citation is acknowledgment, that is, acknowledging that somebody else did that piece of work, rather than the authors. That should be the only reason for you to cite a paper which is not publicly available (for instance, because it is not yet ready, etc.) Some time you can find a citation that says "Author A., Private Communication", which usally means you had a bunch of emails from Mr. Author, and the result/claim/lemma is actually based on what he told you or the draft of his paper that he sent only to you, etc., and you fully acknowledge him for that contribution.

Personally, I never liked citation to Private communication, but they do exists.

  • "Citing a paper serves two roles." Citing serves a whole bunch of other purposes, too, but that is for another question. Dec 10 '19 at 9:53

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