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Grey Literature: What is Grey Literature?

Grey Literature

Places to start looking for grey literature

Ask an expert

You may wish to consider getting in contact with experts in the field you are researching: your unit coordinator, supervisor or team leader. They will often point you in the direction of unpublished resources that you may not find through other routes. 

Check with industry organisations, professional associations and regulatory bodies

Industry organisations commission and publish reports and guidelines, and professional associations and regulatory bodies will provide information and links to related information.

Including grey literature in your search strategy will help you discover

  • newly disseminated findings and emergent research areas
  • information about less successful studies that have not been included in published studies
  • reports, statistics and other data that are not available in traditional published sources

This will help you

  • investigate alternative perspectives
  • offset possible bias in published results
  • include more local information
  • fill in research gaps

What is Grey Literature?

Grey literature is "Information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing, primarily where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body". 

CGL Luxembourg definition, 1997-expanded in New York, 2004

Grey literature is literature that is not formally published in books or journals. It is produced from a variety of sources, and is usually not indexed or organised. By its very nature, grey literature can be difficult to locate.

It can take many forms: 

Conference proceedings Government reports  PhD theses and dissertations Information from key websites
Clinical trial summaries Practice guidelines Patents Reports from relevant associations/public bodies
Maps Census data Working papers Pre and post print articles
Technical reports Blogs White papers Non-written resources and informal communications such as posters and infographics

See more grey literature types: table

Further reading

Adams, J., Hillier-Brown, F.C., Moore, H.J., Lake, A. A., Araujo-Soares, V., White, M., & Summerbell, C. (2016). Searching and synthesising ‘grey literature’ and ‘grey information’ in public health: critical reflections on three case studiesSyst Rev, 5(164). doi:10.1186/s13643-016-0337-y

Adams, R. J., Smart, P., & Huff, A. S. (2017). Shades of Grey: Guidelines for Working with the Grey Literature in Systematic Reviews for Management and Organizational StudiesInternational Journal of Management Reviews19(4), 432–454.

Bat, M., & Shore, S. (2012). Listening differently: an exploration of grey literature about Aboriginal teacher education in the Top End of the Northern Territory. MATSITI, Charles Darwin University,

Mahood, Q., Van Eerd, D., & Irvin, E. (2013). Searching for grey literature for systematic reviews: challenges and benefits. Research Synthesis Methods, 5(3), 221-234. doi:10.1002/jrsm.1106

Paez, A. (2017). Gray literature: An important resource in systematic reviews. Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine, 10(3), 233-240. doi:10.1111/jebm.12266



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