Grey literature is any kind of literature that is published outside of traditional publishing channels, or published by organizations whose main activity is not publishing. Grey literature can include reports, newsletters, bulletins, interviews, government documents, speeches, Listserv archives, conference presentations, PowerPoint presentations, white papers, and many other types of information. Some academic databases index certain types of grey literature, but in most cases you will have to go beyond academic databases to find it.

Grey literature can be useful for several reasons:

  • Because it does not go through traditional publishing channels, grey literature becomes available faster and can provide a more up-to-date snapshot of the conversation.
  • Grey literature can provide access to alternative perspectives that may not be well represented in traditional publications.
  • Grey literature searching is imperative in health research because it can reduce publication bias. Likewise, grey literature can be useful to help SoTL researchers understand what initiatives or approaches are happening that do not reach the publication stage.

Evaluating Grey Literature

Because grey literature does not go through the peer review process, the quality can vary widely and sources must be evaluated carefully. The AACODS checklist, developed by Jess Tyndall, is a commonly used tool for evaluating grey literature:

  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Coverage
  • Objectivity
  • Date
  • Significance

Click here to review the full AACODS tool.

Fact checking: When evaluating grey literature, it is also important to read laterally by moving away from the source you are evaluating. Open a new browser window and search for the source organization or website name to see what you can learn about its reliability from other sources.

Finding Grey Literature

The following tools can be useful when searching for grey literature:

You will also want to use a basic search engine like Google when searching for grey literature. Please review the video on searching Google Scholar for examples of tricks and search operators; Google uses the same search functionality as Google Scholar.

Search Tips for Google Searching

  • Search a specific website by entering your keywords followed by site:url. For example, rubrics will search the Elon University Center for Engaged Learning website for the keyword rubrics.
  • You can broaden the search from a single website to a domain. For example, rubrics site:edu will search for the keyword rubrics only on sites with the suffix .edu.
    • site:edu – U.S. university content
    • – U.K. university content
    • – Australian university content
  • Limiting your search results by file type can also be useful. Some commonly used file types to add to your keyword search include
    • filetype:pdf – searches for PDFs
    • filetype:xls or filetype:xlsx – searches for Excel files
    • filetype:ppt or filetype:pptx – searches for PowerPoint files