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Research4Life: A Guide

Information resources to support R4L training

Grey LIterature Sources - general

"That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers." Grey literature includes theses or dissertations (reviewed by examiners who are subject specialists); conference papers (often peer-reviewed or presented by those with specialist knowledge) and various types of reports from those working in the field. All of these fall into the “expert opinion”  on the evidence scale.

The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature held in Washington, DC, in October 1999

Critically Appraising Grey Literature

Grey Literature: Tips

Find ways to narrow down the scope of your search. Some things to think about when developing a grey literature search strategy:

Who are your stakeholders?

  • Government?
  • Non-government?
  • Academic?
  • Industry?

What kinds of literature are you interested in?

  • Theses and dissertations?
  • Reports?
  • Statistics?
  • Conference proceedings? Sometimes the entire conference is cited or published under a special title.  Try searching for a conference title or an editor, rather than the abstract or paper author/abstract title.Look for a special issue included with the official organ or publication of a society.  Often these issues are published as supplements and may have seperate numbering.

What time periods or geographic/geopolitical areas are relevant to your research? Try a range of years for your search.  Depending on where the conference was held, and who sponsored it, the proceedings can take 2-3 years to become published.  Cited works may have a different dates or vary in title of the proceedings publication.   There is often a year of publication and a year the conference was actually held.

Contact the author.   Author email addresses can be found on conference websites, via their university affiliation, a Google search will often turn up Currirulum vitae, or other recently published articles from the same author may include contact information.

Contact a librarian. We have our ways.


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