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Grey Literature

Appraise What You Find

Grey literature is often publicly available and is rarely peer-reviewed in the way that high-quality scholarly literature is. It is therefore important to evaluate the grey literature you find, to make sure it is of high quality.

There are various tools and checklists you can use to do this, try one of these:

The AACODS Checklist (Authority, Accuracy, Coverage, Objectivity, Date, Significance): From Flinders University to critically appraise grey literature.
The HONcode A list of criteria used to determine whether health information websites are trustworthy. You can add a plug-in to your browser (IE, Firefox and Chrome only) which shows you whether or not a site is certified as trustworthy according to these criteria.

Alternatively use the All Ws method to ask:

Who has created the site?
Have you heard of them?
Can you find out about them online?
Does the design, presentation, language inspire confidence?
Is the information precise, comprehensive and suitable for your purpose (neither too simple nor too academic)?
Are links provided to supporting evidence?
Will the content be relevant to your situation?
Can you tell when the page was last updated?
If not, are the links working?
Is the information balanced?
Is the language emotive?

If the answer to most of these questions is ‘no’, we advise you not to trust it as a source unless you find information to back it up in more credible sources such as peer-reviewed articles. If you are not sure about whether the source you have found can be considered trustworthy, feel free to get in touch.

These tools may also be useful for patients who are struggling to find trustworthy health information. Feel free to share them.
Health images taken from Health B by Kolton Dobie (public domain), available on Flickr.