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How to Find: Grey literature

How to find

Grey literature



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Grey literature refers to both published and unpublished research, produced by government, academia, business and industry, that is not controlled by commercial publishers.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                       Conference proceedings                    Newsletters               

Statistical publications                    Theses                                            Policy documents             

Legal documents                            Trial registers                                  Working papers               

Datasets                                        Research reports                             Fact sheets               

Bulletins                                        Brochures                                       Surveys and interviews



Why use grey literature?


Grey literature is an important source of information as:


  • It 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 or emerging 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.


If using a search engine such as Google and Google Scholar, use the Advanced Search option. This will allow you to limit your search by date (e.g. last 5/10 years), language (e.g. English), region (e.g. Australia) etc. thus avoiding the retrieval of large numbers of results.


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.

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, private companies, 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.


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.