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What is Grey Literature

Grey literature is the term used to describe publications that are unpublished, or which haven't been published commercially.
You can find grey literature on government, agency, university, institution or company websites.

Examples include:

  • annual reports
  • conference papers / presentations
  • fact sheets
  • clinical trials
  • diaries and letters
  • government reports
  • newsletters
  • patents
  • research data
  • statistics
  • working papers
  • theses and dissertations (honors, masters & doctoral)................and MORE
Grey literature word cloud listing various forms of grey literature

Grey literature is used in research because:

  • Some information is only available as grey literature, e.g. unpublished studies
  • It covers newly emerging research areas
  • It is a source of raw data such as data sets and statistics
  • It can help reduce publication bias because negative results are more likely to be included in grey literature than in commercially published sources

Go to our Systematic Review guide for information on using Grey Literature for Systematic Reviews

Finding Grey Literature

Australian websites:

International websites:

Library databases:

  • Scopus and Web of Science index conference papers and technical and other reports.
  • ProQuest indexes dissertations and theses, and conference papers and proceedings.
  • Informit (an Australian database) indexes conference papers and many government documents.

Specialized databases:

Google:
Search engines such as Google are also useful when searching for grey literature. Note that:

  • A simple search for your keywords is often the best approach
  • Google searches will usually return large numbers of results so consider limiting your search by date (e.g. last 5/10 years), language (e.g. English) etc. in Advanced Search.

When you perform a Google search you can also limit to particular domains or by file type. Most of the grey literature available on the Web is in the form of PDF documents. Also consider restricting your search to the .org and/or .gov domains.

e.g. vaccination rural Australia file type:pdf or vaccination rural Australia site:org

Evaluating Grey Literature

Grey literature needs to be critically evaluated and appraised to determine the quality of the information. This is particularly important as grey literature has not usually received the same quality checking as peer reviewed published material. However it may still be reliable information for your research.

The AACODS checklist is a useful tool for evaluating grey literature:

 

ACCODS checklist Accuracy, authority, coverage, objectivity, date, significance