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SJHC e-Library: Grey Literature



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Grey literature refers to "information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing, ie. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body." (International Conference on Grey Literature, 1997)

Grey literature is valuable for gaining a more complete perspective on an issue than what is presented in academic journals and textbooks.

Examples of grey literature include, but are not limited to:

  • Dissertations and theses (e.g. University of Toronto TSpace)
  • Conference proceedings and posters
  • Statistical information and datasets
  • Clinical trials (e.g. Cochrane clinical trials registry)
  • Clinical guidelines (see our Clinical Guidelines page for examples)
  • Government documents, laws, and regulations
  • Business, industry, and non-governmental organization reports (white papers, technical reports, working papers etc.)
  • Patents
  • Self-published books, newsletters, bulletins
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Websites, blogs, online forums, social media
  • Personal communication

Introduction to Grey Literature for Health Sciences from Franklin Sayre at University of British Columbia (Please note that some sources from this presentation may only be available at UBC.)


Grey literature searches are difficult to conduct, since anybody can produce grey literature. Google, Google Scholar, and general grey literature databases can provide a good starting point, but there are many ways to find relevant material.

Some search strategy suggestions:

  • check the websites of organizations involved in the topic (government, industry/business, non-profit/community, academic/research). Many organizations maintain their own library collections and some publish their own work. Note that organizations often operate in a particular geographical area or subject area, and these often overlap.
  • search by resource type (e.g. patents, laws, dissertations, clinical trials, videos/slideshows, audio/podcasts, etc.)
  • other options include contacting experts involved and requesting relevant sources, handsearching print journals, or checking bibliographies in relevant articles for citations of interest.

Sources: Blackhall & Ker. Inj Prev. Oct 2007; 13(5): 359. Finding studies for inclusion in systematic reviews of interventions for injury prevention – the importance of grey and unpublished literature; University of British Columbia Finding the Hard to Finds: Searching for Grey (Gray) Literature 2010.


After you've located material that may be useful, remember to make sure that it is credible and up to date. Check for:

  • Credibility of author(s) and source, eg. known experts and reputable, unbiased organizations
  • Statements of where data was collected and methods of analysis
  • Recent publication date

Source: University of Pennsylvania Grey Lit guide.