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What is grey literature?

Grey literature is produced by non-traditional publishers and is published largely online. Examples of grey literature are:

  • government reports and policies
  • conference presentations and papers
  • issues papers and white papers
  • research and industry reports
  • theses and dissertations
  • trial data, statistics and surveys

When to include a search for grey literature

Grey literature is an essential consideration in systematic and thorough searching for a range of reasons, including:

"... the inclusion of grey literature in meta-analyses has been shown to change the results
of whether interventions are considered effective or not" 
 (McAuley, et al. 2000)

Grey literature reduces publication bias -- where studies with significant results are overrepresented in scholarly publications -- by providing a broader perspective. For this reason, it is particularly important to consider grey literature when:

  • Developing or updating a clinical procedure or guideline
  • Conducting a systematic review and/or meta-analysis

Other instances in which we would undertake a grey literature search include:

  • Planning service improvements
  • Investigating new technologies or therapies
  • Research questions which require a more holistic perspective, incorporating government policy, publications by consumer groups etc.
  • Emerging research topics, as grey literature tends to be more current than traditional research
  • As a source of raw data to expand the primary information available for your research

How to search for grey literature

By its nature, grey literature is beyond the reach of citation databases such Medline and PubMed. Visit our Grey Literature Guide for more information on how to conduct a grey literature search. The Library also runs a regular webinar on grey literature.

Grey Literature Guide

Webinar Calendar

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