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Surveying: More Resources (Grey Literature)

Grey literature

The term 'grey literature' (GL) 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 scrutinised. For more information on how to evaluate resources, check out the Journals & Databases page on this Subject Guide, and in particular the boxes; ‘Assess your findings’ & ‘Evaluating information: additional resources’.

Traditional sources of grey literature include, but are not limited to:

  • 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

In essence, grey literature is:

  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' forms of grey literature include:

  • 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

Advice on ways to find grey literature:

  • Traditional databases. Many databases allow you to search not only published journal articles, but also other resources, like conference papers & theses.
  • Specialised databases. For example, theses databases (see our Thesis Guide for resources).
  • Directories and organisations. Check out some of the links in the 'Surveying Associations & Societies' box on this page to get started searching organisation's websites. Check out the 'Selected Web Resources' box, to access a few key Surveying websites.
  • Library catalogues. Many catalogues (including Library Search | Ketu) now index more than traditional sources of information, including things like; technical reports, research datasets, and sometimes even websites & blogs.
  • Repositories. To get you started, check out the list in the 'Research Repositories' box on this page.
  • Personal communications. For example; phonecalls, emails, blogs, Twitter and other types of social networks.
  • Hand-searching of relevant publications. Sometimes resources may not be available online, or even have any information about them online. In these cases, you have to search the old fashioned way!
  • Internet searches. If you are not getting results on Google Scholar, try regular Google. There are other search engines available that are alternatives to using Google, e.g. Bing & DuckDuckGo.

Google Like a Pro:

Did you know that there are over 40 search operators that you can use to search  Google more effectively, many of which can be used in  Scholar too?  Here are 5 of the most useful ones  plus a Handout that the library produced for a workshop for postgrads.

This box has used information adapted from the 'Grey literature in health: Home page' of a library guide that was put together by my Health Sciences Librarian colleagues, who in turn referred to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries' grey literature information page as a source for content.

Research Repositories

Surveying Associations & Societies

Selected Web Resources

Featured open access resources

The International Water Association (IWA) has published a new open access journal Blue-Green Systems.

Blue-Green Systems brings together cutting edge research on sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally responsible water use in cities and their regions, including innovative approaches such as Sponge Cities, Low Impact Development, Nature Based Solutions and Water Sensitive Urban Design.

Elsevier’s parent company, RELX, has launched a curated collection of 50 book chapters and journal articles to support research into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) marking Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. This open access special issue is devoted to sustainability, and covers a range of topics, including; energy, food science, transportation and waste.

Unpaywall is an open database of over 20 million free scholarly articles. Add their extension to your browser to access free versions of paywalled content that you come across while researching online. This tool will be especially useful to you once you finish studying and no longer have access to big publisher's subscriptions. Read more about this initiative by clicking here.

Surveying Research in OUR Archive

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Geomatics at the Open Directory Project AKA 'Curlie'

Curlie is the largest human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a passionate, global community of volunteer editors. Historically known as the Open Directory Project (ODP) and DMOZ, it was founded in the spirit of the Open Source movement, becoming the only major directory that is 100% free.

The directory has hundreds of resource links for Geomatics, including links to manufacturers and researchers in the Geomatics field.

Ngāi Tahu online resources