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Grey Literature: What is grey literature?

What is grey literature?

According to The Twelfth International Conference on Grey Literature (2010), grey literature is the name given to literature that is not widely disseminated, but is of sufficient quality to be housed by repositories or libraries. It is usually distributed by individuals or non-commercial publishers. 

Common examples of grey literature include:

  • Dissertations
  • Unpublished or pre-print studies and manuscripts
  • Government reports and policies
  • Business reports
  • Conference proceedings
  • Articles published by non-commercial publishers
  • Maps, newsletters and fact-sheets

A video about grey literature by Western University (2012).

Why use grey literature?

  • Studies have shown that using grey literature may help minimize the effect of publication biases, and therefore may assist in providing a more accurate overview of a research topic (Conn, Valentine, Cooper & Rantz, 2003).
  • Grey literature may provide more current information when compared to traditional books and journals.
  • Grey literature may provide a great overview of your topic when used in combination with other resources.
  • Grey literature offers excellent primary resources for documents such as policies and business reports.
  • A traditional literature search may miss vital information on your topic.

Producers of Grey Literature

Grey literature can be produced by a variety of people or organisations. Common producers of grey literature include:

  • Associations
  • Businesses
  • Government
  • Academics
  • Obscure publishers