Grey literature refers to information that is not published through traditional commercial or academic publishing channels. It encompasses a broad range of material and is not well represented in indexing sources.
"Manifold document types produced on all levels of government, academics, business, and industry in print and electronic formats that are protected by intellectual property rights of sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by library holdings or institutional repositories, but not controlled by commercial publishers i.e. when publishing is not the primary activity of producing body" (Schöpfel, 2010, p. 1).
Grey literature is diverse and comes in a variety of forms, it is composed of knowledge artefacts that are not the product of peer-review processes or is not published in a traditional format. This can include (re)sources unlikely to be systematically collected such as conference proceedings, dissertations and theses, raw data, or reports generated by Institutional Repositories, or Government agencies (Adams et al., 2017).
Watch the short video below from Western University describing what grey literature is and how it can help in the research process.
Grey literature is used for many reasons which will differ to your field of research. Some of the key reasons is that it:
Apart from sometimes being irretrievable, other considerations about grey literature are that it:
It is important to note that, while not considered scholarly, grey literature is often produced by experts in a field. Searchers will need to use evaluative methods to assess the accuracy and validity of the literature collected.
There are several types of grey literature, each with its unique characteristics and purpose. To some extent, the type of grey literature you need depends on your question and the evidence required to answer it.
You should carefully consider the types of grey literature you will and will not include in your review. The word cloud below summarises some common types of grey literature.
These sections of the Cochrane Handbook recommend specific types of grey literature to be searched for compliant systematic reviews.
Word cloud image generated using https://www.freewordcloudgenerator.com/
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