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Public Health: Grey literature

Created by Health Science Librarians

What is grey literature?

  • Government and non-governmental organization reports and documents
  • Conference proceedings
  • Theses
  • Subject matter experts
  • Interviews

Searching the grey literature is important in public health, because not all evidence is available in peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles.

Where do I find grey literature?

U.S. Government Resources

North Carolina Resources

Many independent organizations produce grey literature in the health sciences. Their work can generally be located on their websites, either by using a search box (if present) or by identifying a section of their site dedicated to publications. The list below includes some useful sources, but in many cases a search for grey literature will include identification of other organizations whose work is relevant to a research question.

Papers presented at conferences are sometimes collected and published in academic journals, often in supplements. These documents are referred to in different ways, including congresses, meeting papers, and conference proceedings. They may be found by searching the library catalog or in many of the databases that you use to locate other journal literature, such as Scopus and PubMed. Often, it's necessary to identify the organizations that hold relevant conferences and check their websites directly for abstracts and transcripts from past conferences.

Preprints — early versions of journal articles made available before completing peer review are included in some citation databases, like those linked below. Consider also searching the websites of relevant journals or repositories.

Google Advanced Search for Grey Literature

Several features of Google Advanced Search are useful for locating grey literature on the web:

  • Limiting searches by site or domain (e.g. to .gov for U.S. government websites) can provide quick access to common sources of policy documents and reports. Wikipedia's list of country code top-level domains is helpful when searching for literature hosted by other national governments.
  • By specifying file type it's possible to limit results to PDF files, which are common among grey literature documents. These are often otherwise difficult to find on organizations' websites.
  • The last update field is especially helpful if you are looking for recent publications.

How do I analyze grey literature?

Water-specific grey literature

Cancer-specific grey literature