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Grey literature

Searching for grey literature

You may need to take a different approach when searching for grey literature compared to searching for formal research studies through databases. This is because the search interfaces where you find grey literature can be very basic and won't have the same advanced search functionalities.

  • Develop a grey literature search plan before you start, adapt it and keep track of what and how you have searched.
  • You may need to use fewer or broader search terms and perform different combinations of searches to cover related search terms. 
  • See our guidance on using browser extensions to find open access content. 
  • When searching you may need to refine your search to retrieve grey literature, by selecting appropriate limits such as content or publication type or add appropriate search terms such as reports, technical reports, conference proceedings.
  • Most resources won't allow you to directly export results into reference management software such as RefWorks. In this case you might wish to keep records and add them manually. 

Search tools for finding grey literature

Grey literature collections

Preprint servers are online archives, or repositories, containing works or data associated with various scholarly papers that are not yet peer reviewed or accepted by traditional academic journals.

These resources provide research from policy experts, think tanks, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Sources of grey literature

A think tank is a body of experts that performs research and provides advice and ideas in specific areas. They cover topics relating to social, economic and political issues. Information is available through their own reports, expert commentaries and analysis, blogs and videos. Examples include: The Adam Smith Institute, the Fabian SocietyDemos

See the lists below for further examples: 

Websites of professional bodies and organisations (and societies) are a good source of grey literature such as reports and bulletins. Many organisations also provide details of the latest research in their area. These are usually found on search engines such as Google

They can also be a source of primary research as many list their own publications which may not be available through the databases you search.

Check our Subject Guides for lists of websites which may relate to your research question.

Many charities undertake research and produce their own bulletins and reports.

Again, you can check our Subject Guides for relevant websites. These resources allow you to search for charities related to your research topic.

Social media is often used by professionals, academics and researchers to communicate and share ideas.‚Äč You can use social media to find information from resources such as blogs, podcasts, forums and reviews.