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Engaging with grey literature
It's important to integrate information from grey literature into your scholarly research, because there is useful information outside the limits of peer-reviewed journal articles. But it can be hard to find, appraise, and manage grey literature. Use this webpage for advice, but remember that grey literature is diverse. Public health librarian Kate Nyhan is happy to consult with you about a grey literature search strategy tailored to your project.
Kate's grey lit favorites
UCSF has collected documents related to public health and made public through lawsuits. The documents address smoking, diet (especially sugar), drugs, chemicals, and fossil fuels.
Harvard Think Tank Search
Librarians at the Kennedy School maintain a Google Custom Search of think tanks at universities and advocacy groups.
This has direct links and searching tips for hundreds of websites with information about cost-effectiveness research and health technology assessment. From the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
Your grey lit plans
- What kinds of grey lit documents are relevant to you? You wouldn't look for white papers in the same way you'd look for clinical trial registrations.
- Will the grey lit documents you want be free to read (and free to search for)? Or might they be hidden behind paywalls or hidden in the "deep web" of online databases not indexed by Google?
- What organizations, or types of organizations, are producing the grey lit documents you want? Bonus tip: think about private/public/third sector and different levels of geography
Searching for grey literature on the web
Researchers: "I wish I could do a Google search, but just for the sites I care about, not for the whole web."
Librarians: "Good news! Anyone can create a custom search targeted at a specific group of websites."
Intergovernmental organization custom search
The technical side of creating a Google custom search is easy; you probably won't even need this documentation. The hard part is deciding which websites you want to include in your search. We can talk about your specific research goal.
Look for grey literature in these databases
Conference Proceedings Citation Index
Index of conference proceedings literature available back to 1990
Dissertations and Theses
Includes Dissertations and Theses @ Yale
Searches across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts, court opinions; material from: academic publishers, professional societies, government agencies, online repositories, universities, and more.
A free, publicly available deep web search engine that uses advanced federated search technology to return high quality results by submitting your search query--in real time-- to other well respected search engines. Collates, ranks, and de-dups results.
Federated search engine that searches multiple U.S. Federal government databases, retrieving reports, articles, and citations while providing direct links to selected resources available online.
Open Access Theses and Dissertations
OATD.org aims to be the best possible resource for finding open access graduate theses and dissertations published around the world.
ASPR Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange
ASPR TRACIE collects documents for healthcare systems preparedness, public health preparedness, and disaster medicine. It can serve as a partial replacement for Disaster Lit
Popular resources that aren't updated any more
When you're reading papers, you'll probably see references to some grey literature databases that were valuable and popular, but are no longer updated. In some cases, you can still search them, as long as you're aware that you can't expect to find recent documents. In other cases, the database is no longer available at all.
Great source for documents from government agencies and third-sector organizations about disaster response, including natural disasters, refugee crises, pandemics, and epidemics. As of November 2020, the scope has been narrowed to COVID-19 data collection tools.
USAID funded the Knowledge for Health Project to maintain POPLINE, a database of articles and grey literature about reproductive health. In 2019, POPLINE was replaced by Knowledge SUCCESS, a website that uses behavioral science and design thinking for knowledge management about family planning and reproductive health.
Grey Literature Report
The report is a bimonthly publication of The New York Academy of Medicine alerting readers to new grey literature publications in health services research and selected public health topics. The database platform supports MeSH terms and textword searching, as an archive for the cataloged reports. No more resources are being added after January 2017.
What is grey literature?
information produced on all levels of government, academics, 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 -- from ICGL Luxembourg 1997; expanded in New York 2004
High-quality information created and shared outside the scholarly communications infrastructure of journals and traditional publishers
Reports, white papers, dissertations, conference papers, and data -- all things you won't find in PubMed!
More grey literature
Healthy People 2020
Healthy People 2020 provides a comprehensive set of 10-year, national goals and objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
Features multilingual and culturally appropriate health information materials for refugees and health providers.
Institute of Medicine
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public.
Kaiser Family Foundation
Kaiser is a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues, as well as the U.S. role in global health policy
National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools
The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT) is one of six National Collaborating Centres for Public Health in Canada. The NCCMT provides leadership and expertise in evidence-informed decision making to Canadian public health organizations.
National Institutes of Health
The nation's medical research agency—supporting scientific studies that turn discovery into health.
The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest.