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Systematic Reviews

What is Grey Literature?

Grey literature is “information produced  by all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing”. (GreyNet)


Grey literature includes:

Theses and dissertations, conference proceedings, newsletters, reports, government documents, informal communications, translations, census data, research reports, technical reports, standards, patents, videos, clinical trials and practice guidelines, eprintspreprints, wiki articles, emails, blogs, listserv archives, repository content.


Grey literature may present a number of challenges for the researcher:

  • Difficult to find
  • Many documents are not web published
  • Older documents may not be archived
  • Short print runs may lead to lack of availability
  • Format and citation information may be inconsistent
  • Volume of material may be over-whelming and consuming
  • Quality of evidence varies.

Clinical Trials Registers

Check also the lists included in Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (2008, p. 114-117)

Conference presentations



What is included?

How to search

Embase via SCOPUS

Embase contains almost 800 conferences and more than 260,000 conference abstracts, primarily from journals and journal supplements published from 2009.

Limit search by "Publication Type" to:

Conference abstract
Conference paper
Conference review


Includes some citations to individual poster/paper abstracts – may include abstracts. Journal supplements often not included.

Limit search by "Publication Type" to:

Clinical conference
or MESH heading "Congresses as topic"

Web of Science Includes Conference Proceedings Citation Index - Science, and Conference and Proceedings Citation Index - Social Science and Humanities. Rarely includes abstract.

Limit search by "Document Type" to:

Meeting abstract
Proceedings paper

HSRProj (Health Services Research Projects in Progress) Information about ongoing health services research and public health projects from the US National Institutes of Health Use Advanced Search

Databases indexing grey literature



What is included

Australian Policy Online

Australian public policy reports and articles from academic research centres, think tanks, government and non-government organisations. Also features opinion and commentary pieces, video, audio and web resources focused on the policy issues facing Australia. A partnership of ANU's Australian National Institute for Public Policy and Swinburne's Institute for Social Research

Google Scholar

Articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

MedNar One-stop search across medical societies, NIH resources, other U.S. government websites, and patents.
OAlster Catalog of millions of records representing open access resources from open access collections worldwide. OAIster includes more than 25 million records representing digital resources from more than 1,100 contributors. Directory of academic open access repositories. Search for the full-text of material held in open access repositories listed in the Directory using 'Search Repository Contents', or use OpenDOAR to find repositories or groups of repositories that fit particular needs using our 'Find' facility.
Open Grey Open access to 700.000 bibliographical references of grey literature (paper) produced in Europe and allows you to export records and locate the documents. Gateway to over 50 million pages of authoritative selected science information provided by U.S. government agencies, including research and development results lobal science gateway-accelerating scientific discovery and progress through a multilateral partnership to enable federated searching of national and international scientific databases.

Finding theses

Once you know the details of a thesis, how do you obtain the thesis? Here is a summary of what to do:

Web Searching