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Developing a grey literature search plan
Getting started searching for grey literature:
- is broad and amorphous
- can be overwhelming to search without a clear goal
Keep in mind what type of research information that you are after and use this to help plan where you search.
- Start with known resources, other than the general internet.
- When you have exhausted these options then try searching the general internet.
Keep in mind collections that have been already filtered. For example:
Creating a grey literature strategy:
- Start with highly filtered materials, whether it is a specific database, or a repository.
- Search for material from less specific resources. Look for specialised databases or resources in your discipline. Use our subject guides for ideas for resources to use.
- Start from the highest quality or most filtered to the least, such as web browsers
Types of resources to examine:
- Library catalogues
- Academic repositories
- Organisational websites
- Internet search engines
The above content is copied from the University of Queensland grey literature guide with permission.
Use Google more effectively
Searching databases and catalogues
Try searching databases and catalogues for terms such as:
- (conference OR symposium OR seminar OR workshop) AND (paper OR proceedings)
- thesis OR dissertation OR doctorate
- government AND (document OR report)
- "working paper"; OR "white paper" OR "green paper"
Many databases and catalogues contain fields and limiters for document, format or content type that you can use to limit the results to these types of papers or formats. You may need to use the advanced search to see these options, or look for filters in your search results. You can search for these in the limiters options (sometimes in the advanced search screen) of many databases. It will normally be located in a section named document, format or content type.
Searching web search engines:
A lot of grey literature is published in file formats other than normal webpages. In Google use the limit functions to narrow your search
- Add: filetype:pdf or filetype:ppt after all your search terms to find specific file types.
- Add: site:.gov or site:.gov.au or site:un.org or site:edu after all your search terms to find sources from specific websites.
- declaration of human right site:un.org filetype:pdf
- white paper bushfire prevention site:.gov.au
Grey literature search engines
Use this tool to perform structured and transparent searches of websites using Google's site search functionality.
- Enter your websites and search terms in the "Search" tab.
- Download the pages of search results in the "Save HTMLs" tab.
- Scrape the downloaded files in the "Scrape data" tab. You can then download a CSV file containing your search results (source, title, URL and description).
Free deep web search engine that searches government sites, organisation sites and some commercial databases. Use the Advanced search to select which sites and platforms to search.
Key organisations in your field
Try to search the websites of key organisations in your field of research to find information that is not indexed in search engines or other sites mentioned on this page. This could include websites of companies, government bodies, non-governmental organisations and research bodies.
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