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The Dryden Publications Manual

Format for NASA Reports Series - FY 1998

The types of technical reports that NASA will publish starting in FY98 have been significantly reduced. The high and low number designations have been eliminated. For example, former high number TMs and CPs will be Technical Memorandums. Former high and low number CRs will be Contractor Reports. Former Technical Papers, low number TMs, and RPs will be Technical Publications. High and low number TTs will become Technical Translations. Low number CPs and SPs will remain Conference Publications and Special Publications, respectively.

Technical Publication (TP). This series comprises reports of completed research or of a significant phase of research that presents the results of NASA programs. TP’s usually include extensive data or theoretical analysis, but they may be compilations of significant scientific and technical data or information deemed to be of continuing reference value. TP’s represent the NASA counterpart to peer—reviewed formal professional papers but have less stringent limitations on manuscript length and extent of graphic presentations.

Technical Memorandum (TM). This series records scientific and technical findings that are preliminary or of specialized interest, e.g., quick release reports, working papers, and bibliographies that contain minimal annotation. TM’s do not contain extensive analysis.

Contractor Report (CR). This series comprises reports of scientific and technical findings by NASA—sponsored contractors and grantees. A final report or nonrequired report authored by a contractor or grantee may be selected by the NASA monitoring office for publication as a NASA CP, SP, or TP in lieu of being published as a CR.

Conference Publication (CP). This series contains collected papers from scientific and technical conferences, symposia, seminars, or other meetings sponsored or cosponsored by NASA.

Special Publication (SP). This series records scientific, technical, or historical information from NASA programs, projects, and missions, often concerned with subjects having substantial public interest.

Technical Translation (TT). This series consists of English—language translations of non—English scientific and technical material pertinent to NASA’s mission. A translation of material protected by copyright is a derivative work, the distribution of which is constrained by international copyright law. However, TT’s are retained at the NASA CASI for U.S. Government use subsequent to the initial request for the translation.

A given report may be published in only one of the above categories and must meet all the criteria for that category. More information describing these categories can be found at

The recommended categories are shown in Appendix K.

Sections of the Report

The following is an updated summary from NASA SP-7013, NASA Publications Manual 1974. While the publication is out of print, and sections of it are obsolete, it does contain good information about what to include in NASA reports. A later publication, NASA SP-7047, NASA Publications Guide, printed in 1982 contains a condensed version of much of the same information but is also out of print and not up to date. A copy of these manuals can be obtained from TPO.

The standard page size for NASA technical reports is 8-1/2 by 11 inches. The maximum allowable image area is 7 1/8 by 9 3/16 inches excluding the page number. The typeface must be no smaller than 10-point and a minimum resolution of 300 dots per inch. Color printing shall be used in NASA technical reports only when necessary to convey scientific and technical matter in a clear and unambiguous fashion. It must contribute functionally and demonstrate value toward achieving the ultimate end purpose of whatever is printed. Approval will be on a case-by-case basis by the Dryden Installation Printing Officer. Remember, when the report is converted to microfiche, it will be black and white and any color figures may not transfer well.

NASA has a recommended organization to be used in the majority of its formal series reports. This format includes, in general, the following main headings, and their inclusion should be considered by authors in making an outline for their reports. The usual order is as follows:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Symbols or Nomenclature
  • Main body of paper (This part will have such main headings and subheadings as are deemed useful.)
  • Concluding Section
  • Appendixes (When needed.)
  • References
  • Bibliography (When needed.)
  • Tables (When needed.)
  • Figures (When needed.)


The primary function of the Introduction is to define the subject, the purpose, and the scope of the investigation. The introduction should also include such information as the relationship of the experiment to the general problem, the background and status of the problem, and the significance of the material treated.

The Introduction should include information concerning unusual aspects of the report; for example, such items as a video supplement, a supplementary report, or an appendix prepared by a different author.

Symbols or Nomenclature

In this section, all the symbols and acronyms used in the report should be listed and defined with the units used. When defining symbols, the author should use common terms for the field of study. The symbols are arranged alphabetically with the Latin set followed by the Greek set.

If only five or less symbols are used in the report, the symbols may be introduced where they appear and this section deleted. Such definitions may run in the text or set off from the text in list form.

Main Text

The central theme of a technical report is developed in the main text. The organization of a report varies according to the type of subject matter. Experimental investigations contain comprehensive descriptions of specimens and apparatus. Theoretical investigations are concerned with abstract ideas and their application to scientific knowledge. Some of the details to be considered in the development of a report are discussed in the sections that follow.

Descriptive information.

A significant part of a research report is the descriptive information necessary for an adequate interpretation of the results. Report on flight research might include such sections as vehicle description, experiment description, instrumentation, and test conditions. Generic names instead of trade names should generally be used in describing equipment. The discussion should be amplified with illustrative figures and tables. Previous publications containing related research of a similar type should be referenced.

Mathematical presentations.

The convention for the presentation of mathematical expressions in the paper are as follows. Short mathematical expressions or equations can be treated as part of the text when it is convenient to do so. All numbered equations, regardless of length, should be set off and indented or centered on a separate line. Equations needed for reference are numbered as (1), (2), (3), etc., throughout the text. Identifications such as (1a) and (1b) can be used for equivalent or derivative equations. Equations in appendixes can be numbered consecutively following the text or preferably as equations (A1), (A2), (B1), (B2), etc. The numbers for equations are usually set flush with the right margin at the end of the equation with space left for separation.

Results and discussion.

An objective presentation of the results should be given. All statements about the results and any numerical values cited should agree precisely with information in the tables or figures.

Discussion of the results, together with their analysis, to show that the conclusions are warranted is an important requirement of the paper. Each major conclusion should be clearly substantiated; any contradictory theories or results should be explored and differences clearly explained. Comparisons with results of similar work by other investigators should be presented when practical. Because NASA publications have an interdisciplinary readership, all statements should be clear to readers who might not be as well acquainted with the subject as the author.

Promises of future work in the subject should be avoided and could prove embarrassing if it is not accomplished. If future work is warranted, a simple statement should suffice.

Concluding Section

Most formal NASA publications close with a concluding section. This section should be self-contained because many readers will turn to this section to find out what was learned and parts are sometimes quoted verbatim. It should not contain any undefined symbols or any referrals by numbers to figures, tables or references. The information in the concluding section is drawn from the results presented and each conclusion is supported by discussion in the main text. No new material is presented in the Concluding Section.

There are three types of commonly used concluding sections, Summary of Results, Conclusions, and Concluding Remarks. Each opens with a brief paragraph that states the purpose and the method of accomplishment of the investigation. The Summary of Results simply states the major findings of the investigation in brief, itemized statements. This section only restates the facts: All the material must have already appeared in the main body of the report.

The Conclusion section properly comprises the deductions, i.e., the conclusions reached from the facts presented. Already known facts should not be concluded, and conclusions should not be confused with factual results (Summary of Results). If more than one conclusion is reached, they should be placed in order of importance. When drawing distinct conclusions is impossible, a Concluding Remarks section is used. In this section, the author may give opinions, make concise evaluations and appraisals and give recommendations. The views expressed should, of course, be based on the information provided by the investigation.


Appendixes present supplementary information that does not logically fit into or might otherwise interfere with an orderly plan for the presentation of the text. It is material that is important, but not essential, to the development of the report. Each appendix must be referred to at some point in the text and must have a title and be numbered with a capital letter, A, B, C, etc. (if there is more than one) in the order that they are introduced in the text. It generally opens with a new page and follows the concluding section and precedes the references.


All NASA reports must have a brief abstract (less than 200 words) and be independent of the text. Whenever possible, the abstract should be informative rather than descriptive and should state the objectives of the investigation, the methods employed, the results obtained, and the conclusions reached. Abstracts of classified reports must be unclassified.


The selection of a title should be carefully thought out because the majority of abstracting and indexing is based solely on the title. It should convey the maximum amount of information in the minimum number of words, i.e., short and informative. Avoid such terms as "Investigation of," "Summary of," or "Research on." Such words unnecessarily lengthen the title and bury the subject.


Publications referred to in NASA publications are listed in the References section, which is located immediately after the concluding section of the report or last appendix if any. There are several ways to organize the References section. One way is to reference the publications by order of appearance in the report. A second method, and sometimes preferred, is to cite the name/date of the publication (Anderson 1987; Smith 1984, 1992). This method allows the manuscript to be revised without changing the reference list in the text, tables, figures and appendixes. In the reference list, the names are alphabetized. Multiple publications by the same author(s) are listed chronologically, oldest to most recent. Multiple publications by the same author in the same year are listed as author, year, and letter (Robinson, 1987a, 1987b). Documents having no personal author may be cited in the text by use of an abbreviated title.

The reference section should list only reports that the author has actually seen or knows to be generally available. Unpublished information, such as personal communications or papers can be referenced. The fact that they are unpublished must be included in the citation.


If tables are necessary, they must be mentioned in the text. Several methods of including them are acceptable. If they are short, they can be included as printed text. If they are extensive, they can be included as microfiche, computer diskettes (either Macintosh or PC format) or as a compact disk. Each table should have a unique Arabic number and title. Tables are numbered consecutively as they are introduced in the report.


Figures, such as photographs, drawings, and graphs, are numbered with Arabic numerals in the order of their mention in the text. They can either be inserted with the text or grouped together at the back of the report. The figures must fit within the 7-1/8 by 9-3/16 inch image area of the standard page layout. The preferred software for figures in Graphics is Adobe Illustrator, Canvas, or PICT format.


The covers of NASA technical reports except for SPs will be duplicated on white matte stock with black ink or printed on white glossy cover stock with colored ink. When printed by the Government Printing Office, the type of report can be indicated by the color of the ink for the printed covers, bright red for CPs, green for CRs, black for TMs, blue for TPs and purple for TTs. The standard elements of the front cover from top to bottom are the report number, NASA insignia (meatball), title, author name(s), restriction and classification notice. rule, and month/year. Use of one-color line art or black-and-white photo are optional. An example of a front cover is shown in Appendix L.

As mentioned above, line art or photos can be used on the front cover. If line art or a photo is desired, it should be an item of existing line art., or photo. New line art or photos should not be made or taken specifically for the cover. Suitable line art and photos should be available in Graphics and the Photo Lab, respectively.


This manual has presented the step-by-step procedures for publication at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. Technical reports are the primary product of the research and flight tests performed at Dryden. The technical reports need to be published in a timely manner to obtain the maximum benefit from the money spent on that research. The technical review process used by Dryden will help insure that only high-quality reports and papers are published.


NASA Publications Manual 1974, NASA SP—7013, 1974.

NASA Publications Guide, NASA SP—7047, 1982.

NASA Procedures and Guidelines, NPG 2200.2A, Guidelines for Documentation, Approval, and Dissemination of NASA Scientific and Technical Information, September 3, 1997.

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