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CamGuides: Finding and Using Resources

Grey literature

a business report, printed - lots of graphs!Grey literature is the term for literature not formally published in books or journals, or published in a non-commercial form. This includes: technical or research reports from government agencies, reports and working papers from research groups, doctoral dissertations, conference proceedings, blogs, policy documents, newsletters, and market reports.

Understanding and being aware of the structures of commercial academic publishing, and how this affects what is published and how you access it, may be relevant to you in your studies.

As grey literature is not formally published, it is not subject to the same control as other literature, which has several implications:

  • incorporation of viewpoints less likely to be heard or to publish in academic journals, or topics less likely to be of interest to publishers
  • avoiding the lengthy formal publication process can mean that grey literature is produced quickly
  • inclusion of negative results, helping you to avoid 'positive bias': e.g. studies with a definite positive effect of a medical treatment are much more likely to be published commercially

Some places to consider when searching for grey literature:

  • Web of Science (formerly Web of Knowledge), which includes conference proceedings, and includes results from across all disciplines, despite its name [requires institutional subscription]
  • BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine), an open access repository. The results here must contain academic content but BASE searches the deep web so might surface results that wouldn't be found in other search engines.
  • The King's Fund: independent reports, findings and commentary on matters relating to healthcare.
  • Open Access Theses and Dissertations, the British Library's EThOS, and NDLTD: all excellent for finding open access dissertations and theses. More information on finding dissertations in Cambridge is available here.
  • ONS: statistics, but usually with a UK focus.

An excellent guide to grey literature, including a range of other sources, is available here from the University of Wolverhampton. The document below, produced by Public Health England, provides more links and more information about places to find grey literature.

Image credits

CC0 by 6680962 via Pixabay