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Grey Literature

Video Overview

Click here for a 15-minute video overview of grey literature from the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Welch Medical Library.

Image of various documents


Grey literature can be described in many ways, but the most widely accepted definition was adopted in 1997 and expanded in 2004 at the Grey Literature Conference in Luxembourg and New York City, respectively.  This definition states that grey literature is "information produced on all levels of government, academia, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing, i.e. where publishing is the not the primary activity of the producing body" (Mering, 2018). Due to its often informal nature, grey literature is seldom subjected to a peer review process, and as such can vary widely in quality.

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

  • brochures and leaflets
  • government documents
  • blog posts
  • online articles
  • press releases
  • dissertations and theses
  • white papers (reports that discuss a complex problem or issue and that may present possible solutions)
  • drug package inserts
  • internal memos
  • corporate annual reports
  • patent and trademark applications
  • unpublished data sets
  • educational course materials
  • fact sheets
  • transcripts of lectures or presentations


Mering, M. (2018). Defining and Understanding Grey Literature. Serials Review44(3), 238–240.