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Unlocking grey literature
City, University of London
Presentation at ALISS event, Aston University,
What we will cover today
■What is grey literature?
■Why use grey literature?
■Search engines/ open access repositories.
■Finding theses and dissertations.
■Social sciences / government publications.
■Opportunity for hands on practice.
Grey literature Library guide
What is grey literature?
■ Grey literature is semi or unpublished information not produced by
commercial publishers. For example research reports, working papers,
conference proceedings, theses, preprints, white papers, government,
academic, business and industry reports (University of Leeds). Examples
■ There is some debate about how to define it and what it includes.
■ May be open access but some grey literature as not published by
mainstream publishers can be hard to track down.
■ It has not necessarily been peer-reviewed so you may wish to evaluate
the quality of it.
■ Search engines and interfaces may vary in quality and performance.
Why use grey literature?
■Some material such as research reports may only be
available as grey literature.
■ Source of preliminary data (e.g. statistics).
■ Quickly produced and disseminated.
■ Could include qualitative information such as viewpoints of
individuals such as patients.
■ More likely to be industry or sector focussed.
■ Balanced viewpoint? – may include negative results
■Can offer coverage of special interest topics and expand
your literature search.
■May be open access and international.
Some search engines for grey literature
■ BASE: Bielefeld Academic Search Engine- the Advanced Search
allows you to search for specific types of grey literature.
■ Google Scholar and Google are useful for locating some reports,
technical papers, conference proceedings and working papers.
■ Open Grey- Provides open access to 700,000 bibliographical references
of grey literature (papers) produced in Europe. It includes documents
from the fields of science, technology, biomedical science, economics,
social science and humanities. (Not up to date).
■ Grey Literature Report Public health topics (up to Jan 2017).
■ Online subscription databases such as Web of Science and Scopus
allow you to refine or limit your searches to look for specific types
of grey literature, such as conference proceedings.
Some search tips
■ AND combines search terms so that each result you retrieve will contain
all the keywords you have entered in no particular order.
■ OR retrieves documents where either keyword appears. For example,
teenagers or adolescents. OR is used to broaden results.
■ NOT excludes terms. Each search result will exclude any of the terms
which follow the word Not. For example, education NOT technology finds
results that contain the keyword Education but not technology.
■ “…..” searches for an exact phrase.
■ Wildcard (? #) Use the wildcard to replace a single character in the word
(eg. organi?ation, wom#n).
■ Truncation (* $) replaces multiple characters at the end of the word eg.
■ Word order?
BASE search: Social care and dementia (also
links to Google Scholar)
Finding theses & dissertations
■ Library catalogues such as COPAC.
■ Harvesters such as OpenDOAR and CORE have access to
international subject-based and institutional repositories. There is a list of
international repositories SHERPA search (beta) for UK open access
■ British Library EThOS Online e-theses service, some available to
■ DART- Europe E-theses Portal www.dart-europe.eu/
Access to European research theses.
■ Humanities Commons dissertations and other materials.
■ Proquest Dissertations & Theses (subscription resource).
Examples of free social sciences resources
■Health Sciences has many sources.
■Popline contains the world’s most comprehensive collection of
population, family planning and related reproductive health and
■Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Abstracts, working
papers and articles relating to social science research. Examples
of other free subject repositories include RePEc, arXiv or PubMed
■Social Care Online The UK’s largest database of information and
research on all aspects of social care and social work.
■PsycBITE is a database that catalogues studies of cognitive,
behavioural and other treatments for psychological
problems and issues.
SSRN – paper statistics & downloads
Related journals and papers.
■The following resources provide information
produced by the UK government www.gov.uk
and its agencies. Information available includes
governmental publications, policy documents,
consultations and announcements.
■Publications example Social care
■Policies example Health and social care.
■Consultations (open and closed) example Network
■Announcements example Higher Education.
■ Mailing lists – JISCMail Email discussion lists for the UK Education and
■ Blogs (search Google and add keyword blogs).
■ Zetoc Conference search.
■ Conference archives may contain papers or presentations eg. LILAC
■ Follow academics and hashtags on Twitter.
■ Figshare is a web-based interface designed for academic research data
management and research data dissemination.
■With the vast expansion of electronic information, it is much
easier to locate materials that are not commercially
■It is certainly worth looking at these sources when
conducting research / literature reviews as they are often
free, open access and international.
■This might also mean that what is considered as ‘grey
literature’ is less defined and clear as the use of sources
such as electronic theses had become much more common.
■Take a look at some of the different resources on the grey
literature Library guide https://libguides.city.ac.uk/grey and
try some searches of your choice on them.
■How easy do you find them to use?
■What do you think of the interfaces, searching and content?
■Did you find any useful information?
■What are your top 3 resources?
■Go to the Grey literature library guide
■Choose a topic. Think of some concepts, keywords and
synonym terms for the topic.
■ Identify some limits for your search.
■ Consider the types of documents you require eg. theses,
reports, articles, data, blogs.
■ Publication dates eg. in the last 5 years.
■ Geographical location ( eg. UK, international).
■ Choose which sources to use (See Grey literature page
above for some ideas).
■Try some searches.
Thank you, any questions?
■Diane Bell firstname.lastname@example.org