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Grey Literature

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.

Grey literature:

  • is not widely disseminated
  • can be difficult to find
  • may contain more information as they lack publication length stipulations 
  • can be produced and disseminated much faster than published literature
  • is less expensive to access than traditional closed-access literature
  • may not be subject to rigorous peer review process
  • is often not archived

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

Grey Literature Examples

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

  • brochures, leaflets, press releases and fact sheets
  • conference abstracts and proceedings
  • government documents
  • clinical trials or registered research
  • online articles and blog posts
  • dissertations and theses
  • corporate annual reports
  • patent and trademark applications
  • unpublished data sets
  • educational course materials