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Public Health Information Resources: Grey literature

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. Email the public health librarians or schedule a consultation about a grey literature search strategy tailored to your project.

Kate's grey lit favorites

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

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papers, you'll probably see references to some grey literature databases that were valuable and popular, but are no longer updated.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. 

What is grey literature?

Technical definition

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

Practical definitions

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