- Learn about grey literature as a research source
- Build your confidence in finding and evaluating grey literature resources
- Discover the help and support that is available
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.
Why use it?
- Good resources that help to monitor changes in a particular field
- Offers the potential to balance any tendencies for publication bias found in published literature.
- It is a way to locate experts in a field
- Helps introduce alternative perspectives that may not be represented in standard literature.
- 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- Includes unpublished research
Examples of grey literature include:
|technical or research reports||pamphlet||speeches|
|committee reports||conference presentations||preprint materials|
|market reports||blogs||theses and dissertations|
|white papers||podcasts||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
How to find it?
Select keyword search terms for your topic
- Choose words that represent the key concepts of your research topic or question
Locate key authors
- use academic networking
- use listservs
- Blogging (blog searching engine)
- Podcast searching, specialized directories
Create a search string using Boolean operators
- think of synonyms for each concept and groups synonyms with brackets using OR to connect them
- use AND operator to search multiple ideas and/or phrases
- use the truncation symbol * (asterisk) to replace word endings or variant spellings, ie: enviro*
- use quotation marks to ensure that words are searched together as a phrase
(your topic) AND (meeting* OR abstract* OR poster* OR conference* OR proceeding* OR congress* OR symposi* OR workshop* OR seminar*)
Start with an OMNI the search engine on the library home page (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)
- 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)
- Web of Science (multidisciplinary suite of databases)
- WorldCat (covers resources outside of Carleton's collection)
Use Cited Reference Searching
Scanning reference lists ‘snowballing,’ bibliographies and academic CVs
- http://www.greylit.org/ (The New York Academy of Medicine)
- Open Grey (European focus)
- GreyNet International
- United Nations Official Document System
- The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR)
- ScholarlyCommons: Repository (U of Pennsylvania)
- Social Science Research Network
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US)
- World Wide Science.org
- National Technical Information Service
- The Canadian Evaluation Society
- The Canadian Best Practices Portal
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US)
- Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR)
- Policy Horizons Canada
- Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD)
- Georgetown University: Political Database of the Americas
- Consortium 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
- Mednar (deep web search engine, medically-focused)
In order to be successful at finding grey literature it is recommended you narrow down the focus of your search. Some things you should think about before beginning your search for grey literature are:
- 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?
Searching the web
- 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 News
- Google Alerts (set up alerts that cover your topic or follow specific institutions)
- Google Advanced
- restricting content to file type
- to do this type in your topic and then "filetype:pdf" or "filetype:doc"
- restricting content to site .org or .gov sites
- to do this type in your topic and then either "site:.org" OR "site:.gov"
- restricting content to searching titles only
- to do this type search "intitle: "climate change""
- to exclude words from your search
- to do this search use operator "-" (minus) eg. jaguar speed -car
- using 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
- Use Social media (often organizations and individuals make information about their publications available)
- Other search engines:
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?
For more information explore Evaluating Online Information: Use the CRAP test
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