Grey literature includes (but is not limited to):
A lot of grey literature is available on what is called the Invisible, Hidden or Deep Web.
- Search engines can't reach it - it may be behind a paywall or firewall, or the site may have blocked search engine's webbots that index information on the web.
For example, most library databases are part of the invisible web as they are only accessible to staff and students who have logged into the library's subscription access.
- The content can't be read by search engine's webbots - for example files, videos, audio files or pictures without metadata written in html, which is what webbots read.
- Content is not linked from anywhere else or must be accessed by a separate search interface that search engines can't read.
Devine, J., & Egger-Sider, F. (2015). Beyond Google: The invisible web. Retrieved from https://library.laguardia.edu/invisibleweb
oEDB. (n.d.). The Ultimate Guide to the Invisible Web. Retrieved from http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/invisible-web/
Taylor, McCartney. (2016). Deep web search: A how to site. Retrieved from http://deep-web.org/
Library catalogues contain grey literature in the main lending collections as well as in archives, special collections and theses collections.
Many databases also list grey literature, especially theses and conference papers. Check the page for your discipline to see databases containing grey literature.
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" etc
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.
The sites below are union catalogues, which allow you to search the collections of many libraries at once. These are particularly useful for finding theses and conference papers.
Grey literature is used for many reasons. These may depend on your field of research but some of the key reasons include:
It introduces alternate viewpoints
It is the only source of information- e.g. research data, letters
It provides first hand accounts of events - e.g. research data, diaries
It overcomes or minimises reporting or publication biases - e.g. clinical trials
It provides new information not yet been published in traditional sources - e.g. conference papers
It provides more local information - e.g. government reports, local collections
Below are some key places to look for grey literature across all disciplines.
Also check discipline specific resources using the tabs above.
These are directories that highlight a range of grey literature sources across all disciplines and who produces it.
Preprint databases contain the author’s original manuscript before submission for traditional publication. There are preprint archives available for most disciplines. The link below is for a search engine for multiple preprint servers.
See your discipline page for more discipline specific archives.
Educational and research institutions are major producers of grey literature in the form of theses, conference papers, working papers, reports and more. Many of these resources are available as open access. The sites below will assist you in locating and searching these repositories.
These sites provide access to digital theses from around the world that are available as open access for free. Some also list theses that need to be purchased.
Also search Trove to find Australian print or digital theses.
You should also 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.
A lot of grey literature is published in file formats other than normal webpages.
Use the File Type limit in the advanced search in search engines such as Google to narrow your search results by file type to PDF, Word, PPT etc.
Statistics and data are often considered grey literature as they are published by government, research organisations and researchers, not by traditional publishing sources. Below are some places to find these resources.
Patents, standards and IP documents are also considered grey literature as they are published by organisations and individuals, not by traditional publishing sources. Below are some places to find these resources.
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