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 is an important source of information for research. It provides access to a broad range of information and often contains new ideas. Searching grey literature also offers the potential to balance any tendencies for publication bias found in published literature. It helps introduce alternative perspectives that may not be represented in standard literature.
Examples of grey literature include:
- technical or research reports
- committee reports
- market reports
- conference papers
- white papers
- conference presentations
- government documents
- preprint materials
- theses and dissertation
- clinical trials
Who "produces" grey literature?
- Professional associations
- Research centers (groups on campus)
- Government & local authorities
- Pressure groups
- International organizations
- Non-for-profit organizations
- Think tanks
Why keep current?
- Good resources that help to monitor changes in a particular field
- It is a way to locate experts in a field
- Is rapidly produced and also very current
- Information comes from industry and other non-academic institutions
- Covers current state of affairs and historical collections
- Is generated on various levels from international, state, province to municipality
- Includes unpublished research
Creating a grey literature strategy
- Start with highly filtered materials, whether it is a specific database, or a repository.
- Search for material from less specific resources. Look for specialized databases or resources in your discipline. Use our subject guides for ideas for resources to use.
- Start from the highest quality or most filtered to the least, such as web browsers
How to find it?
Start with a Summon search (narrow down results by content type)
Explore the following databases:
- Dissertations and Theses Global
- IEEE Xplore Digital Library (narrow down to "conference publications")
- CURVE (Carleton University Repository Virtual Environment)
- Government Information (use our Google custom search engine)
- Business Source Complete (select publication type "Grey literature", also search market reports and company information)
- WorldCat (covers resources outside of Carleton's collection)
Use Cited Reference Searching
Scanning reference lists ‘snowballing,’ bibliographies and academic CVs
Locate key authors
- use academic networking
- use listservs
- Blogging (blog searching engine)
- Podcast searching, specialized directories
- http://www.greylit.org/ (The New York Academy of Medicine)
- Open Grey (European focus)
- GreyNet International
- The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR)
- ScholarlyCommons: Repository (U of Pennsylvania)
- Social Science Research Network
- World Wide Science.org
- National Technical Information Service
- The Canadian Evaluation Society
- The Canadian Best Practices Portal
- http://www.ahrq.gov/(the Agency for Healthcare research and Quality)
- Docu Ticker (only archives, website has ceased)
- Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR)
- Government of Canada: Public Opinion Research Reports
- Policy Horizons Canada
- Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD)
- Georgetown University: Political Database of the Americas
- Online Document System (ODS) of the United Nations
- UNBISNET (United Nations Bibliographic Information System)
- Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA)
- EGO: European History Online
- Grey Matters- Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
- Creative Commons
- University of Toronto Research Repository
- Groundwater Grey Literature Archive (Southern African Development Community)
- OAIster (records representing open access resources)
- Mednar (deep web search engine)
- Scholar (use "advanced search" options to narrow down your search)
- Domain searching:
- allows a search across a website using Google
- will only work for websites in which Google can send spiders through to capture data
- is an easy way to search for sites with a government or educational institution extension. The default for a government site is to use .gov and this defaults to a US government site, to make it a Canadian government site add gc.ca, e.g. site:.gc.ca
- Alerts (set up alerts that cover your topic or follow specific institution)
- Custom search engines
Use Social media (often organizations and individuals make information about their publications available)
Set up RSS feeds
Monitor changes to webpages
Always evaluate information
- Authority: Is the author or institution credible?
- Accuracy: Is it supported by documented and authoritative references? Is there a clearly stated methodology? Is it 'in line' with other work on the same topic
- Coverage: Have limitations been imposed and are these stated clearly?
- Objectivity: Can bias be detected?
- Date: Can't find the date? Rule of the thumb is to avoid such material
- Significance: Is it relevant? Would it enrich or have an impact on your research?
How to cite grey literature?
The citation style and the type of document you are working with dictate how you cite it in your work.
- technical report
- web site
- sound recording
For more information follow Citing your sources