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Finding Grey Literature: Finding Grey Literature

This guide provides tools and methods to locate grey literature

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.

  1. Start with known resources, other than the general internet.
  2. 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:

  1. Start with highly filtered materials, whether it is a specific database, or a repository.
  2. 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.
  3. Start from the highest quality or most filtered to the least, such as web browsers

Types of resources to examine:

  • Databases
  • 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

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7. Use Google more effectively - Top library tips series by JCU Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Search tips

Searching databases and catalogues

Try searching databases and catalogues for terms such as:

  • unpublished
  • (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:  or   or  or  site:edu   after all your search terms to find sources from specific websites.


  • declaration of human right filetype:pdf
  • white paper bushfire prevention

Grey literature search engines

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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Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.