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How to Find

What is grey literature?

Grey literature refers to both published and unpublished research, produced by government, academia, business and industry, that is not controlled by commercial publishers. Some examples of grey literature include:

  • Government reports                                 
  • Statistical publications
  • Policy statements
  • Working papers
  • Research reports
  • Fact sheets
  • Conference proceedings                             
  • Conference papers
  • Legal documents
  • Manuals & handbooks
  • Brochures
  • Bulletins
  • Newsletters
  • Theses
  • Trial registers
  • Datasets
  • Discussion papers
  • Surveys, interviews & questionnaires

Why use grey literature?

  • Grey literature can help address biased reporting of research results (publication bias) and provide a more balanced view of a topic
  • It can be a good source of up-to-date literature for newer areas of research
  • In some topic areas (e.g. social sciences, government policy), a large amount of the evidence is communicated through grey literature.

Tips for searching for grey literature

Searching for grey literature is not always easy and can be time consuming. Simple searches are often more fruitful than the rigorous strategies used for database searching. Try searching on your core concepts rather than using long strings of search terms.

Where can I find grey literature?

Websites of relevant organisations

Search or browse the websites of key organisations in your research area. These may include: government agencies, academic or research institutes, professional associations, and advocacy groups. Depending on the focus of your topic, the following sources may be useful:

Library databases

As well as journal articles, many library databases also index other types of literature including conference papers, reports, theses and government documents.

  • 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.

Most library databases provide the facility to limit by publication or document type, which will allow you to narrow your search to grey literature sources.

Grey literature databases, library catalogues, and repositories

  • Specialised databases, such as Open Grey, index grey literature in a number of subject areas.
  • Trove is an overarching search interface to search the content of most Australian libraries as well as archives and repositories.
  • Institutional repositories, such as espace at Curtin, hold digital theses and research papers. Australasian Open Access Repositories provides a list of research repositories.

Online search engines

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 (e.g. sustainable tourism AND poverty alleviation).
  • 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:

  • “Sustainable tourism” AND poverty will look for Australian government websites with information on sustainable tourism and poverty.
  • “Sustainable tourism” site:org will look for organisational websites on sustainable tourism.
  • “Sustainable tourism” AND poverty alleviation filetype:pdf will look for PDFs on sustainable tourism and poverty alleviation.

Evaluating grey literature

Grey literature is usually not subject to the same peer-review process or quality checks as books, journals and other commercially published literature. It is important to critically evaluate grey literature to ensure it is of a suitable quality to include in your assignment.

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

Our guide to evaluating online information should also assist you to appraise any information you may find: