Computer Laboratory

Technical reports

Instructions for submitting a new technical report

Suitable material

Technical reports are intended primarily for the long-term archival of results and descriptions that are not suitable for submission to a journal or publication as a monograph due to their length or nature. Technical reports should be prepared to a quality standard comparable to that for other scientific publications. Technical reports are also the most common way to make a PhD thesis widely available.

Technical reports are not intended as a medium to disseminate preprints of papers that are awaiting review and publication. For these, better use your departmental web home page and/or one of the various preprint servers (arXiv CoRR, Computer Science Preprint Archives, Cryptology ePrint Archive, etc.).

Online publication procedure

Since 2002, technical reports published by the Computer Laboratory have primarily been released electronically, as PDF files with a common title-page layout. The title page will be generated by the technical-report editor automatically from the report’s database record. Where a print version of the report is produced, it will just be a printout of the PDF file and the title page will also be used for the cover page.

Submission requirements

In order to prepare your document for publication as a technical report, it might have to be slightly reformatted. This is in particular the case if the original document was formatted according to particular thesis submission or book publisher requirements that consume too much paper for a report. PhD authors who follow our local thesis layout recommendations rarely have to reformat anything. Beyond the standard title page and a few very simple format requirements, there is no strict standard page layout, font scheme, bibliographic reference format, etc. specified. However, feel free to use the available LaTeX examples for short paper-style and long thesis-style reports as a simple starting point.

We generally advise against using the LaTeX style of a commercial publisher (Springer, IEEE, ACM, etc.). This is not only because many of these styles were not designed for A4 paper, but also because publishers hold typographic copyrights on these styles and readers will associate the more well-known styles with the publisher’s brand. There are plenty of free advanced LaTeX classes to choose from (KOMA-Script, memoir, etc.); Robin Fairbairns is a good source of suggestions if you cannot find something that suits you on the UK TeX Archive.

Please read the following guidelines and instructions carefully:

Provide a PostScript file of your submission. DVI is also acceptable if you did not embed any graphics files. PDF is less preferred. In particular, do not use distiller or ps2pdf yourself; submit the relevant source PostScript file instead, even if it is huge.
Format for double-sided printing on A4 paper. In LaTeX, use the twoside,a4paper options. (In particular, please do not use the popular LaTeX LNCS style, which is designed for a 152 mm × 235 mm book page, not for a 210 mm × 297 mm A4 page. If you really must use the LNCS style for some reason, please magnify the PostScript file with pstops '0@1.25(-2.95cm,-4.5cm)' [some prefer pstops '0@1.20(-2.40cm,-3.7cm)'] to end up with reasonable margins on A4 paper.)
Make the page margin on each side between 20 and 30 mm wide. Reports may be printed quite a number of times, so please choose a layout that makes good use of the A4 page and does not produce unnecessarily many pages. Thesis binders have similar requirements. LaTeX users might use something like:
  \documentclass[12pt,twoside,a4paper]{report}
  \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-0.4mm} % 25 mm left margin
  \setlength{\evensidemargin}{\oddsidemargin}
  \setlength{\textwidth}{160mm}      % 25 mm right margin
  \setlength{\topmargin}{-5.4mm}     % 20 mm top margin
  \setlength{\headheight}{5mm}
  \setlength{\headsep}{5mm}
  \setlength{\footskip}{10mm}
  \setlength{\textheight}{237mm}     % 20 mm bottom margin
The document should use normal line spacing (that is, not the one-and-a-half spaced lines prescribed sometimes for submitted dissertations or manuscripts).
Number the pages in the provided file starting from 3. This will leave room for the title page and its back side, which will be added by the technical report series editor. (LaTeX: \setcounter{page}{3})
Do not provide your own book-style title page. The standard title page (page 1+2) that I will prefix to your file will already provide all the relevant bibliographic data, including a copyright message. Your first page (page 3) should typically contain an abstract or summary. (In a printed copy, the title page is the first printed page. If you bind a printout of a report with an additional paper cover, you should print the title page content (page 1) in addition also onto the front cover page. The traditional cover colour for bound Computer Laboratory techreports was a light blue, but most people today simply use an unprinted transparent cover page instead.)

If your report looks more like a compact paper or article (title, abstract and introduction are all on the same page, potentially double-column) rather than like a book or thesis, then it is fine but not necessary to repeat the title and authors on the top of page 3. If you do that, please do not add a date (LaTeX: \date{}). Capitalise in your title only the first word and proper names (that is use English-style and not US-style titles, just like titles are written in the University Library catalogue), because that is how it will appear on our standard title page. For consistency, it may be a good idea to do the same in section headings.

Number the pages in your file continuously throughout the document. In other words, do not number front matter (abstract, table of contents) separately in Roman numerals. This ensures that the printed page number and the page number shown by a PDF browser are identical, which simplifies the on-screen use of the table of contents and other page-number references. This practice also conforms to the relevant international standards for technical reports and theses. There is no need for a page number to be visible on each page, but it should increase by one on each page. (LaTeX: do not use the book class; you can use the openright,twoside options to get the same layout with report).
A technical report that is based on a thesis and the thesis itself are two distinct documents. There is in particular no need for a technical report to fulfill the Board of Graduate Studies format requirements, such as the declaration that you wrote it yourself and that it satisfies the length limit. Authors are free to make changes to a thesis before submitting it as a technical report, because the publication of the technical report is not part of the examination process. Some authors add the names of their thesis examiners to the acknowledgement section of the technical-report version. If the report is based on a thesis, then the title page back side will have a note on this, which will also provide the submission date of the thesis and the name of the college.
Avoid redundant legalese. You do not need a copyright statement in the submitted text, because the back side of the title page will already carry one. There is no need to add a section on acknowledging trademarks. You are free to use any registered trademark to identify goods and services of the trademark owner (see Trade Marks Act 1994, s10(6))).
While the online version of a report can be in colour, please keep in mind that any printed versions produced by the Lab will be in black and white for the foreseeable future (exceptions might be possible where necessary). Therefore, any use of colour in diagrams should preferably not be essential for understanding the presented information. If this is not feasible, you can ask the series editor to add an appropriate warning to the back side of the title sheet.
If you use the hyperref LaTeX package:
  • use option pdfpagelabels=false
  • if you submit a PostScript file, use option dvips
  • preferably deactivate the colourful boxes around links with option pdfborder={0 0 0}
Typical invocation:
  \usepackage[dvips,pdfpagelabels=false,pdfborder={0 0 0}]{hyperref}
If you really want to colour the text to mark hyperlinks, please use only dark blue; the bright default link colours look rather ugly on black-and-white printouts.
If you provide a PDF file, please make sure that no raster-graphic image in it has an excessively high resolution, so as to keep the file size reasonable. For colour and grayscale photos, keep pixels larger than 150 µm (resolution not above 170 dpi), for bi-level images, keep the pixels larger than 40 µm (resolution not above 635 dpi). Use an appropriate compression algorithm for your image type. If you submit PostScript, your photos will be subsampled and compressed where necessary.
Please avoid the use of graphics (e.g., logos) in running headers or footers, as these increase the file size enormously.
When you use (La)TeX with Computer Modern fonts, use the Type1 outline versions in the PostScript file, not the old Type3 bitmap fonts. The command
  grep '%DVIPSBitmapFont:' file.ps
should not output anything. Avoid using the textcomp package, which uses pixel fonts. You may also want to check with ghostview, whether ligatures such as “fi” or “fl” appear correctly and have not been replaced by a random other character.

Modern TeX distributions get this right by default. If you still use some pre-2005 version of dvips, upgrade or try

  dvips -Ppdf -G0 file.dvi
When you have checked all of the above points, contact the Lab’s technical report series editor (currently Nicholas Cutler or Markus Kuhn) and provide the following information in your email:

The series editor will then assign a technical report number, generate a database record and put your report together with the standard title page onto the web server. Technical report numbers are normally not assigned before the actual report has been submitted. The date shown on the title page will be the month and year in which the final report was submitted.

If you really must have a technical report number in advance (usually because you want to submit two reports that reference each other), then please submit all of the above information, a draft version of the report, explain why you really need the number in advance, and give a firm deadline by which you will provide the final report. This information will become visible on the web site as soon as the number is assigned, along with a “to be published by ... ” note.

By submitting a technical report, you provide the University of Cambridge with an unlimited non-exclusive licence to copy and distribute this document forever. You also declare that the authors named on the report are the sole copyright holders of this document and that you have obtained any necessary permission from owners of included material. Please take this into consideration if you plan to publish the document later elsewhere. The verso of the title page will carry a copyright notice with the authors’ names. Also consider before submitting a report, whether you might want to delay publication because of a patent application.

You may also want to read the usage licence under which we release technical reports at present. This may be updated in future.

Approval

Unless one of the authors is a member of academic staff, you should first seek approval for publishing a technical report from your supervisor (if you are a graduate student) or principal investigator (if you are a research assistant). An accepted PhD thesis is usually automatically eligible to be transformed into a technical report (subject to explicit objections from the Degree Committee). Please wait with submitting your PhD thesis as a technical report until it has shown up in the Computer Science Degree Committee's list of theses recommended for approval.

The technical report editor will normally make no effort to evaluate the quality of the report’s content, but might provide advice if there are obvious stylistic or technical problems with a submitted file. See also the references provided below.

Getting older reports online

Authors of older reports who did not submit an electronic version are still encouraged to do so now, as we want to have as many reports as possible online. For reports that have already been published previously on paper with a Computer Laboratory Technical Report number, the electronic version should preferably be a faithful reproduction of what was published originally and should in particular not introduce changes in the printed page or section numbers.

Updates

Technical report numbers do not include a version number. We keep only a single PDF file for each report number. Therefore, in the interest of the archival nature of the collection, any non-trivial change to the content of a technical report, in particular any new scientific contribution, should appear under a new report number.

If the changes are of a rather minor nature, we can replace an old report with a newer version. In this case, the original publication date will remain the same, but the database keeps a list of all update dates and these will appear on the back side of the title page of the updated report. Examples for minor updates include

  • fixed typographical mistakes;
  • fixed technical problems with diagrams or tables;
  • added clarifying footnotes or single sentences;
  • additional references.

or other changes that do not substantially alter the content, contribution, or page layout of the original version. Where appropriate, newly added text should be identifiable to the reader as such.

What happens after submission?

The technical report will be made available online on the Computer Laboratory technical report web page as a PDF file as soon as possible after submission.

Hand in paper backup copy: Once the PDF version is online, and you are happy with the result, please print out a copy of the PDF file onto single-sided A4 paper. You can do this on lab Linux machines with

wget -O - http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/TechReports/UCAM-CL-TR-n.pdf | lpr -single

Check your printout for any obvious problems. In particular look for problems with fi or fl ligatures – a frequent source of trouble with dvips – as well as broken graphics and wrong fonts or symbols. Then hand it in to the Computer Laboratory librarian, Nicholas Cutler, as the official backup paper copy. This way, we will also have an authentic archival version of your report on paper and remain prepared for a future in which PDF might be forgotten. (The normal Lab-supplied laser-printer paper is “acid free” according to ISO 9708.)

Handling of online drafts: If you had an earlier draft of your report on your private web page, you can now remove it and change any links you had to the new URL. When you do this, please do not forget to give the web server an HTTP redirect instruction, such that people who follow links to the removed file will automatically be sent to the current URL. To do this, put into the file ~/public_html/.htaccess a line of the form

Redirect permanent /~x/y.pdf http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/TechReports/UCAM-CL-TR-n.pdf

Print version: The Library Committee decided that the Technical Report series is as of January 2002 (report number 527 and higher) primarily an electronic publication. We are not producing paper copies routinely any more. Authors can still ask the librarian to have up to about ten copies of a new report printed and bound (fastback thermal binding in light blue cover pages) by the Computing Service Printroom. For a larger number of copies, a grant code might be needed. A do-it-yourself plastic-comb binder is available in the Lab’s library. If you produce a copy of one of the older reports, you might want to add a new-style titlepage from our file of all title pages.

Questions?

For any questions on submitting reports, please contact tech-reports@cl.cam.ac.uk. If possible, please always mention the relevant report number in the subject line.

References: