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Grey Literature

What is grey literature?

  • Grey literature is semi or unpublished information not produced by commercial publishers. For example research reports, working papers, conference proceedings, theses, preprints, white papers, government, academic, business and industry reports (University of Leeds).
  • As grey literature is not published by mainstream publishers, it can be hard to track down.       
  • It has not necessarily been peer-reviewed so you may wish to evaluate the quality of it.
  • There is some debate about what it  includes.                                                                                  

Why use grey literature?

  • Some material is only available as grey literature such as the preliminary results of research projects.
  • Source of raw data (e.g. statistics).
  • Rapidly produced and disseminated.
  • May include the viewpoints of individuals such as patients.
  • More likely to be industry or sector focussed, rather than academic.
  • Negative results are more often included than in conventionally published materials.
  • Can offer coverage of specialist interest topics not often found in mainstream titles.
  • Could be free, open access and international.

Examples of subscription databases

Consider the types of materials you wish to locate and if available try and refine your search results  using these otherwise you may wish to add appropriate search terms such as reports, technical reports, conference proceedings.

  •  Web of Science (contains open access and repository content and conference proceedings index for example).
  •  Scopus (includes conference proceedings).
  • Academic Search Ultimate (add search term of Conference proceedings for example).

Free grey literature databases (general)

The following resources search for all types of grey literature but are particularly useful for finding conference proceedings and doctoral theses.

  • BASE: Bielefeld Academic Search Engine The Advanced Search allows you to search for specific types of grey literature.
  • Google Scholar  May be useful for free reports from organisations, government, universities, patents.
  • Open Grey Provides open access to 700.000 bibliographical references of grey literature  produced in Europe (not up to date).

Examples of free social sciences resources

  • Popline contains the world’s most comprehensive collection of population, family planning and related reproductive health and development literature.
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Abstracts, working papers and articles relating to social science research. Examples of other free subject repositories include RePEc, arXiv or PubMed Central.
  • Social Care Online The UK’s largest database of information and research on all aspects of social care and social work.
  •  PsycBITE is a database that catalogues studies of cognitive, behavioural and other treatments for psychological problems and issues.

Government publications

The following resources provide information produced by the UK government and its agencies. Information available includes governmental publications, policy documents, consultations and announcements.

Think tanks

A Think tank is a body of experts that performs research and provides advice and ideas in specific areas. Some examples can be found in this Guardian List of thinktanks in the UK.

Economics think tanks ( from LSE Library).

European politics think tanks.

They cover topics relating to social, economic and political issues for example.

Information is available through their own reports, expert commentaries and analysis, blogs and videos.

Institutional repositories

Repositories are collections of research produced by an institution's researchers. Institutions can be governmental, organisational and academic, such as Universities. Often contain electronic PhD theses.

City Research Online, the repository of City, University of London has a growing collection of electronic doctoral theses, many of which are available to download.

May include working papers for example City Research Online working papers on transnational politics or research papers for example City Research Online working paper series on legal research.

The following resources allow you to search institutional repositories which can contain grey literature.

  • Harvesters such as OpenDOAR  (to find repositories) and CORE (to search content)  have access to subject-based and institutional repositories.

Theses and dissertations

The following resources allow you to search for doctorate theses and dissertations relating to your research topic

Other sources

  • Join mailing lists – JISCMail Email discussion lists for the UK Education and Research communities.
  • Blogs (search Google and add keyword blogs). 
  • Conference archives may contain papers or presentations eg. LILAC Conference
  • Follow academics and hashtags on Twitter.
  •  Figshare is a web-based interface designed for academic research data management and research data dissemination.