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Grey literature: Home

About this guide

This guide discusses, and helps you find, relevant grey literature for research.  Please explore the tabs along the top for tips on finding specific types of resources.

The guide is always a work in progress, so we welcome suggestions for additional content. 


The Twelfth International Conference on Grey Literature in Prague in 2010 arrived at the following definition:

"Grey literature stands for manifold document types produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats that are protected by intellectual property rights, of sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by libraries and institutional repositories, but not controlled by commercial publishers; i.e. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body."

The term 'grey literature' is used to describe materials not published commercially or indexed by major databases. While GL may be of questionable quality it has been shown to have an impact in research, teaching and learning. Sometimes, GL is the only source of information for specific research questions. While some GL may be published eventually, and may be easier to find, sometimes it never is.

GL may not go through a peer-review process, and its authority must be scrutinized.

Finding grey literature

The following is an approach to seeking grey literature:
1. Traditional databases
2. Specialised databases – e.g. theses databases (see Thesis Guide)
3. Directories and organisations
4. Library catalogues
6. Personal communications – e.g. phone, email, blogs, Twitter
7. Hand-searching of relevant publications
8. Internet & portal searches –  e.g. Google, Bing, Google Scholar

Traditional grey literature

- Theses and dissertations
- Census, economic and other “grey” data sources
- Databases of on-going research
- Statistics and other data sources
- Conference proceedings and abstracts
- Newsletters
- Research reports (completed and uncompleted)
- Technical specifications, standards, and annual reports
- Informal communication (i.e. telephone conversations, meetings, etc.)
- Translations

1. not formally part of ‘traditional publishing cycles’ producers include research groups, universities and government
2. not widely disseminated dissemination of published materials is the goal in traditional publishing

New grey literature

- e-prints, preprints
- electronic networked communication
- blogs, podcasts (audio or video)
- repositories
- listserv archives
- digital libraries
- spatial data (e.g. Google Earth) 
- meta-searching, federated searching, portals
- wikis, Twitter, other social media


Additional content within this grey literature guide has been based upon content developed by Hope Lappen ( of Penn Libraries at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn Libraries' grey literature information page is available here.