Subject Guides

Grey Literature

What is Grey Literature

Gray Literature (Grey Literature) is literature that is not published through traditional means and is often excluded from traditional academic databases. Grey literature is: 

  • produced by government agencies, corporate industries, and at the academic level
  • in either electronic or paper formats
  • NOT controlled by commercial publishers
  • typically not peer-reviewed
  • Video: Grey Literature Introduction

    Watch this video from the John Hopkins Medical Welch Medical Library to learn more about grey literature.

  • Video: Where’s the rest of the data iceberg?

    This short TED Talk discusses how biases against negative outcomes affect what gets reported in traditional publishing venues.

Examples of Grey Literature

Examples of Gray Literature include, but are not limited to,

  • Article preprints
  • Reports and white papers
  • Conference proceedings/Briefings,
  • Dissertations/Theses
  • Registered clinical trials
  • Policy documents
  • Government publications

Sources of Gray Literature may be located in commercial databases, websites and/or university repositories. 

Why use Grey Literature?

"The intent of an evidence synthesis is to synthesize all available evidence that is applicable to your research question. There is a strong bias in scientific publishing toward publishing studies that show some sort of significant effect.  Meanwhile, many studies and trials that show no effect end up going unpublished.  But knowing that an intervention had no effect is just as important as knowing that it did have an effect when it comes to making decisions for practice and policy-making. While not peer-reviewed, gray literature represents a valuable body of information that is critical to consider when synthesizing and evaluating all available evidence."


Benefits of Including Grey Literature in Literature Reviews

  • Mitigates publication bias
  • Creates a more comprehensive view of the existing literature
  • Includes the most recent research

Additional Reading