Grey literature consists of documents produced by government, academic, business or organizations "where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body." (Greynet)
Examples include annual reports, conference proceedings, technical reports, theses, white papers, and even informal communication such as blogs, emails, or social media posts.
Searching the grey literature is important because not all evidence is available in peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles.
The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature held in Washington, DC, in October 1999 defined grey literature as: "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.
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?
What kinds of literature are you interested in?
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. firstname.lastname@example.org