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General Engineering

Standards: What are they and how can I find them?

What are Standards?

Definition of "Standard":  "a recognized unit of comparison by which  the correctness of others can be determined."  Another definition is "a set of characteristics or qualities that describes features of a product, process, or service." Yet another definition is "a document, established by consensus that provides rules, guidelines, or characteristics for activities or their results" (World Intellectual Property Organization, 2010).  

Why do we have standards? "[Standards] simplify product development, reduce unnecessary duplication, lower costs, increase productivity, promote safety, and permit interchangeability, compatibility, and interoperability. They help to advance scientific discovery, and keep people safe by minimizing injuries and protecting key environmental resources."  "They make modern conveniences possible: light bulbs fit into lamps, electronic files are transferred over the Internet, trains move between states because the tracks are the same gauge ..."

from ANSI Course: An Introduction to Standards: Why, Where, and How They Are Developed


Thank you to Matt Marsteller, Science and Engineering Librarian at Carnegie Mellon University (and Ms. Kokus' former teacher), for information on Standards and Technical Reports from his CMU LibGuides.

Who Produces Standards?

Standards are produced by scientific and professional organizations, trade organizations, and governments, nationally and internationally.  In the United States, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) coordinates many standards developing organizations (SDOs).  ANSI is also the sole U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).  Here's a list of Standards Developing Organizations (U.S. System).

Finding Standards and Standards Vendors

What are Technical Reports?

technical report is a document that describes the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research or the state of a technical or scientific research problem.  They are prepared for internal or wider distribution by many organizations.  Technical reports often present cutting edge research before being published in journals or conferences.

Technical Reports Online

The largest central resource for government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information and acts as a clearinghouse.  
The National Technical Reports Library(NTRL) offers the American public free access to a searchable online database of approximately three million federal science and technology reports.
Citations and some fulltext computer science articles, papers, and technical reports freely available on the Web. searches over 60 databases and over 2200 selected websites from 15 federal agencies, offering 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information including research and development results. is governed by the interagency Alliance ( 2016). Included in this list are Department of Energy (DOE), National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One can also search the website of the specific agency for technical reports:

A concise list of government agencies with free access to their technical reports:  

Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) 

DTIC helps the Department of Defense (DoD) community access pertinent scientific and technical information to meet mission needs more effectively.

Information Bridge (U.S. Department of Energy) 

Provides free public access to over 230,000 full-text documents and bibliographic citations of Department of Energy (DOE) research report literature.  Documents are primarily from 1991-present and were produced by DOE, the DOE contractor community, and/or DOE grantees.

Technical Report Archive and Image Library (TRAIL) 

A collaborative project to digitize, archive, and provide persistent and unrestricted access to federal technical reports issued prior to 1975.

NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)

1920–present.  Indexes technical reports, conference papers, journal articles, and other publications sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).  NACA Reports, Technical Notes, and Technical Memoranda are available in fulltext from 1917–1958.  Some NASA reports are fulltext.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

Fulltext of more than 7,000 archival and current EPA documents.