Grey literature is defined as "information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing" ie. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body."
ICGL Luxembourg definition, 1997. Expanded in New York, 2004.Grey literature can also mean literature that is hard to find or has inconsistent or missing bibliographic information.
Why use Grey Literature?
- More current with better coverage of emergent research areas
- Can be rapidly produced without having to go through the peer-review process
- Monitor changes in a particular field
- Balance for publication bias found in published literature
- Offers diverse perspectives
- Better source of information on policies and programs
- Locate experts in a field
- Unpublished research
Examples of grey literature include:
- technical or research reports
- committee reports
- conference papers
- clinical trials
- white papers
- theses and dissertations
- government documents
Extensive list provided by GreyNet International.
Who "produces" grey literature?
- Professional associations
- Research centers (groups on campus)
- Government & local authorities
- Pressure groups
- International organizations
- Non-for-profit organizations
- Think tanks
1. Narrow down the focus of your search
- What kinds of information are you looking for?
- theses and dissertations?
- conference posters, papers, or proceedings?
- government reports?
- clinical trials?
- Who would publish this type of information?
- advocacy groups?
- Do you have limits to time period or geographic area that you are looking for?
2. Select keyword search terms for your topic
- Choose words that represent the key concepts of your research topic or question
- Use a thesaurus or dictionary to find synonyms
- If using a Library database, create a search string using Boolean Operators:
BOOLEAN SEARCH TIPS:
- Use keywords only, DO NOT search using a full sentence.
- Combine keywords for different ideas with AND
- Search by keyword for specific topics: Globalization AND women
- Or by country: Globalization AND China
- Combine synonyms or similar words for an idea with OR. Use as many synonyms as you want but they must be in brackets and have OR between each term.
- (international OR global OR multinational)
- Capitalize your AND and OR terms
- Use the * at the end of the root of a word to find all the forms of that word
- Use " " quotation marks to find a phrase such as "human rights"
For example: (your topic) AND (meeting* OR abstract* OR poster* OR conference* OR proceeding* OR congress* OR symposi* OR workshop* OR seminar*)
3. Locate key authors - where and how?
- Google: look through first 5-10 pages for relevant authorities, organizations or stakeholders. Look at who publishes and/or stores relevant documents. YES you can try contacting these experts.
- Academic networking
- Blogs (blog searching engine)
Use Cited Reference Searching
Scanning reference lists ‘snowballing,’ bibliographies and academic CVs.
- Directory of Charities and Nonprofit Organizations
- List of Canadian Charities
- Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD)
- ClinicalTrials.gov (US)
- Health Canada's Clinical Trials Database
- ISRCTN Registry (UK)
- WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP)
- PsycINFO - Advanced search allows for methodology searching
Dissertations and Theses
- CURVE - the most up-to-date theses produced by Carleton researchers
- Theses and Dissertations Databases
- Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLT) Free international resource for theses and dissertations
- Center for Research Libraries (CRL) A resource for institutions outside of the U.S. and Canada.
- EThOS (Electronic Theses Online Service contains doctoral theses from candidates in the UK)
- Australasian Digital Thesis Program (Provides access to theses from Australian and New Zealand institutions. Up to 5,000 available for free download)
- Canadian Public Documents Collection
- Canadian Research Index
- Conference Board of Canada e-Library
- Congressional Research Service (US)
- GovInfo (US)
- Government Information
- Government of Canada Publications
- Public Policy: Key Government Resources (University of Toronto)
- Universal Database of Russian Governmental Publications
- Canadian Institutional Repositories
- University of Toronto Research Repository
- ScholarlyCommons: Repository (U of Pennsylvania)
- Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR)
- The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR)
International Organizations Publications
- IMF eLibrary
- OECD iLibrary
- UNESCO Publications
- United Nations iLibrary
- United Nations Digital Library
- United Nations Treaty Collection
- World Bank Publications
- World Health Organization Publications
- Publications Office of the European Union
- All Results Journal
- International Journal of Negative Results
- Journal of Negative Results
- PLOS: The Missing Pieces: A Collection of Negative, Null and Inconclusive Results
Newspapers and Magazines
While the information in newspapers and magazines might not be acceptable as a source of scientific evidence, they can often point you to key references or provide a source of evidence for public opinion.
- Find Policy
- Government Canada Publications
- Policy Horizons Canada
- Policy Index File (U.S.)
- Policy Commons
- Factsheets on EU policies
Alternative words to use instead of "policy": guideline, initiative, strategy, framework
For the fullest information on government policy, it is often necessary to search across the full range of government publications.
- America History and Life (covers Canada and US) - search document type "speech"
- CBC Archives
- Former Prime Ministers' Archive (Canada)
- Great Canadian Speeches
- Gifts of Speech: Women's Speeches from Around the World
- Historical Abstracts (covers everywhere except Canada and US) - search document type "speech"
- House of Commons Debates
- Speeches and Audio (History Channel)
- United Nations Speeches
- Commission on Presidential Debates: Organization responsible for sponsoring presidential and vice-presidential debates.
- American Presidency Project Online resource that has consolidated, coded, and organized into a single searchable database:
- The Messages and Papers of the Presidents: Washington - Taft (1789-1913)
- The Public Papers of the Presidents:Hoover to Obama (1929-2009)
- The Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: Carter - G.W. Bush (1977-2009)
- The Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents: Obama (2009-2012)
- American Rhetoric - Online Speech Bank, Index of full text, audio and video (streaming) versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events
- Nexis Uni : Contains speeches (particularly political speeches). To search for Transcripts use the guided news search.
- Canadian Newsstream (ProQuest)-Look for transcripts of speeches by searching for Transcript (under document title) and person, place or event.
Think Tank Publications
- Carleton Library Think Tanks Page
- Canadian Think Tanks Search Engine
- Think Tanks Search (Harvard Kennedy School)
- Trent University Think Tanks Page
- Think Tank (European Parliament)
- Grey Literature Report (The New York Academy of Medicine)
- Open Grey (European focus)
- GreyNet International
- United Nations Official Document System
- WHO Institutional Repository for Information Sharing (IRIS) Institutional WHO database of intergovernmental policy documents and technical reports. Can search by IRIS by region (Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia, Western Pacific).
- Social Science Research Network
- World Wide Science.org
- National Technical Information Service
- The Canadian Evaluation Society
- Grey Matters- Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
- Creative Commons
1. Use Google
- Google Scholar
- use "advanced search" options to narrow down your search
limit to title
“Our findings show that GS results contain moderate amounts of grey literature,with the majority found on average at page 80...We recommend that searches of article titles focus on the first 200 to 300 results.”
Haddaway NR, Collins AM, Coughlin D, Kirk S. The Role of Google Scholar in Evidence Reviews and Its Applicability to Grey Literature Searching. PLoS One. 2015 Sep 17;10(9):e0138237. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138237
- Google Think tanks (custom search engine)
- Google News
- Google Alerts (set up alerts that cover your topic or follow specific institutions)
- Google Advanced
- restricting content to file type
- type in your topic and then "filetype:pdf" or "filetype:doc"
- restricting content to site .org or .gov sites
- type in your topic and then either "site:.org" OR "site:.gov"
- restricting content to searching titles only
- type search "intitle: "climate change""
- to exclude words from your search
- to do this search use operator "-" (minus) eg. jaguar speed -car
Search for sites that link to site of interest:
Find quick information about a site:
Search for words in a URL:
- use Google Australia, Google UK, Google.de etc.
- truncation/wildcard searching is not supported
- Google & Google Scholar show only the first 1000 results
- nesting terms in parentheses- eg. (science OR technology) AND (Ontario OR Alberta) - does not work as it does in other databases
- restricting content to file type
2. Use Social Media
Often organizations and individuals make information about their publications available via their social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.).
3. Use Other Search Engines
Use other search engines to get broader results. For example, Duck Duck Go does not collect user information and therefore results are not filtered based on your personal profile.
- Search Encrypt (uses local encryption to ensure your searches remain private)
- CCSearch (copyright-free content)
- Mednar (deep web search engine, medically-focused)
DON'T FORGET TO Evaluate Your Sources
You can find Grey Literature in the Library Databases, but remember when searching Library databases you must use Boolean Searching. See Steps to Searching the Literature above.
1. Start with an OMNI the search engine on the library home page
- Narrow down results by resource type - see Examples of grey literature in the Getting Started section of this guide.
Explore the following databases:
- Policy Index File (Premier resource for policy grey literature)
- Dissertations and Theses Global
- IEEE Xplore Digital Library (narrow down to "conference publications")
- CURVE (Carleton University Repository Virtual Environment)
- Business Source Complete (select publication type "Grey literature", also search market reports and company information)
- Scopus (A multidisciplinary abstract and citation database of research literature and web sources)
- Policy Commons (International think tank publications)
- Web of Science (multidisciplinary suite of databases)
- WorldCat (covers resources outside of Carleton's collection)
- Internet Archives (researching old websites, but it’s so much more)
Keeping Track of your Searches
- Identify and record the sources you will search. The sources you search will be informed by your research question and where you expect to find information related to your question.
- Document where you are searching and your search strategies, including document resource name, URL, search terms, and date searched.
- Collect citation information as you go.
- Adhere to your established inclusion and exclusion criteria when selecting sources.
An electronic form is another good way of keeping track provided by the following universities: