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What is Grey Literature?

Grey literature consists of:

  • reports
  • theses
  • conference proceedings
  • technical specifications & standards
  • translations
  • bibliographies 
  • technical & commercial documention 
  • official documents  

Alberani, V., De Castro Pietrangeli, P. & Mazza, A.M.  (1990).  The use of grey literature in health sciences: A preliminary survey.  Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 78 (4) : 358-363. Retrieved from 

How do I evaluate grey literature?

A possible checklist for evaluating grey literature is using AACODS (Authority, Accuracy, Coverage, Objectivity, Date and Significance)

  • Authority: Is the author credible?
  • Accuracy: Is it supported by documented and authoritative references? Is there a clearly stated methodology? Is it 'in line' with other work on the same topic
  • Coverage: Have limitations been imposed and are these stated clearly?
  • Objectivity: Can bias be detected?
  • Date: Can't find the date? Rule of the thumb is to avoid such material
  • Significance: Is it relevant? Would it enrich or have an impact on your research?

Where do I look for grey literature?

There are a number of sources where grey literature can be found. These include:



  • WorldCat which holds millions of holdings from numerous libraries world-wide
  • Large libraries like the Australian National Library which often collect grey literature in paper form


The Internet is now a major source for dissemination and retrieval of grey literature and often is a good starting point to a topic area:

How do I search for grey literature?

  • Since there are two accepted spellings, to locate information on gray/grey literature in general, search for: (gray OR grey) literature
  • Search the online catalogue of large libraries
  • Conference papers that have been published in a book or as a special issue of a journal can be easily obtained through library catalogues. Conference papers or conference proceedings that are unpublished are a lot more difficult to track down
  • A few databases are now indexing conference papers and conference proceedings. They include
    • Web of Science
    • CINAHL 
    • COS Conference Papers Index through ProQuest
  • There are many Theses Discovery Services available to locate research output by thesis.
  • Contact authors, peer groups and private companies. This can be done through:
    • written correspondence
    • email discussion lists
    • the "institution" field of databases

Web search tips:

  • Most of the grey literature available on the Web is in the form of PDF documents. Also consider restricting your search to the .org and/or .gov domains. To search the Internet:
    • Go to Google
    • Enter your search term e.g. vaccination rural Australia filetype:pdf or vaccination rural Australia site:org in the Search box
    • Click on Search