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Finding Grey Literature

Start your Grey Literature search with this guide containing resources and strategies for discovering research produced outside traditional commercial or academic publishing channels.

Grey Literature Videos

These videos come from other academic institutions but are relevant to give a quick introduction to what grey literature is and what tools to use to critically evaluate the information you find.

What is Grey Literature?

“…information produced on all levels of government, academia, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing i.e. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body.”

Schnopfel J. Towards a Prague definition of grey literature. Presented at: Twelfth International Conference on Grey Literature: Transparency in Grey Literature. Grey Tech Approaches to High Tech Issues. Prague, 6-7 Dec 2010, Czech Republic. pp.11-26. Available from:

Grey Literature

In the health sciences, grey literature is crucial in completing the picture of research on a particular topic. Grey literature can be an important source for:

  • recent results, data and statistics
  • reports are often more detailed in nature
  • publication lag (results may show up in conference proceedings months or years before they show up in peer reviewed journals)
  • positive result bias (study results with negative results are often published less in scholarly journals compared to those studies which showed a positive result)

How is grey literature different than traditional published literature?

  • not widely disseminated
  • difficult to find
  • may contain more information as there aren't publication length stipulations 
  • can be produced and disseminated much faster than published literature
  • lower costs than traditional literature
  • may not go through as rigorous of a peer review process
  • often not archived

Grey Literature can be found in many different forms including:

  • policies or procedures
  • guidelines
  • conference proceedings, papers or posters
  • dissertations and theses
  • clinical trials
  • leaflets and factsheets
  • and much more 

Focus Your Search


In order to be successful at finding grey literature it is recommended you narrow down the focus of your search. Some things you should think about before beginning your search for grey literature are:

  • What kinds of information are you looking for?
    • theses and dissertations?
    • conference posters, papers, or proceedings?
    • government reports?
    • clinical trials?
  • Who would publish this type of information?
    • government?
    • advocacy groups?
    • academia?
    • industry?
  • Do you have limits to time period or geographic area that you are looking for?

Where do I begin?

Finding grey literature can often be a daunting task. If you are having trouble figuring out who might be producing the information you are interested in, the below links will provide information on a number of organizations that produce grey literature.

Searching the Web

A thorough grey literature search should involve a general sweep of the web by using different search engines. Google is an important search engine but others such as Yahoo and Bing could be looked at. Some tips for web searching are:

  • restricting content to .org or .gov sites
    • to do this type in your topic and then either "" OR "" 
  • restricting content to file type 
    • to do this type in your topic and then "filetype:pdf" or "filetype:doc"
  • using Google Australia, Google UK etc.
  • try the search engine Duck Duck Go
    • this search engine does not record location or user searches