What is grey literature?

Answered By: Richard Fallis
Last Updated: Feb 03, 2015     Views: 27

Essentially, grey literature is research material that isn’t formally published in a journal or a book.

Grey literature encompasses multiple document types, produced by government, academics, business, and other organisations whose primary activity isn’t commercial publishing.

Some examples of grey literature are:

  • Patents
  • Technical reports from government agencies or scientific research groups
  • Working papers from research groups or committees
  • White papers
  • Preprints (i.e. paper not yet officially published in a journal)

It's not always necessary to search for grey literature, but it can be useful for picking up on potential developments in a field before they filter through to peer-reviewed journals etc.

Sources of grey literature

These will vary depending on your subject/research area. If you have any questions about finding relevant grey literature, please contact your Subject Librarian. Bear in mind, however, that grey literature can be hard to track down, and often there is relatively little full text available. 

However, some good, general sources of grey literature are:

  • OpenGrey: multidisciplinary European database, formerly known as SIGLE (System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe) 
  • BASE: the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine - use 'Advanced Search' to limit results to reports, theses etc
  • DocuTicker: connects to freely available full-text PDF reports from NGOs, government agencies, research institutes and similar organisations

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