Grey Literature

Find out what grey literature is and where to find it.

What is grey literature?

Grey literature is the term used to describe publications that are unpublished, or which haven't been published commercially.

For example, when you submit your thesis to the university's Institutional Repository, it becomes a piece of grey literature. It is made publicly available via the repository, but it hasn't been commercially published.

You can find grey literature on government, agency, university, institution or company websites. Examples include:

  • annual reports
  • clinical trials
  • conference papers / presentations
  • diaries and letters
  • fact sheets
  • government reports
  • newsletters
  • patents
  • policy statements
  • practice guidelines
  • research data
  • statistics
  • technical reports
  • theses and dissertations (honours, masters & doctoral)
  • white papers
  • working papers

Why would I use 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  • Some information is only available as grey literature, e.g. unpublished studies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

What about Grey Literature? in the High Level Review guide explains why it is used for Integrative, Scoping and Systematic Reviews.

Some things to be aware of

Grey literature can be difficult to find and access.

  • A limited number of copies are produced 
  • Distribution can be limited
  • It is not always archived
  • It is not always indexed
  • It is not always published online
  • The storage format for older materials may require obsolete technology for access

The quality of grey literature is variable.

  • It is not necessarily subjected to a formal peer review process
  • Materials are essentially self-published, e.g. a white paper is made publicly available by the government department the authors are employed in.

Jess Tyndal from Flinders University developed the AACODS checklist opens in a new window (Authority, Accuracy, Coverage, Objectivity, Date, Significance) to assist in evaluating grey literature.

Grey literature and the DOI

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a string of numbers and letters that is a unique and persistent identifier for the publication it is assigned to. Having a DOI increases the visibility and accessibility of your work. It enables accurate citations of your work which contributes to metrics and altmetrics for your work.

CQUniversity can now mint DOIs for grey literature such as theses, reports, creative works and unpublished conference papers. This makes them more discoverable. See the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) news article: DOI service (Cite My Data) expanded to include grey literature opens in a new window.

CQUniversity Theses completed from 2018 onwards are being given DOIs as they are published in aCQUIRe.

CQUniversity researchers and academics who produce other grey literature, can request a DOI through TASaC