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How To Do Research: Grey Literature

An introductory guide on the research process for graduate students.

Grey Literature

Grey literature consists of documents that are unpublished or have been published outside of the typical commercial or academic publishing environment. Grey literature is often generated by public sector organizations/government entities.

Although not peer-reviewed, grey literature is produced by researchers in the field. It is useful for identifying developments or trends in a subject area and is often more current than scholarly/peer-reviewed publications because it does not go through a lengthy publication process. It can be an important source of data and information and is available more quickly than research published in the traditional academic realm. 

Examples of grey literature include:

  • conference abstracts, presentations, or proceedings
  • government publications
  • reports (such as white papers, working papers, and internal documentation)
  • dissertations & theses
  • patents
  • regulatory data
  • unpublished trial data
  • policies & procedures

See Document Types in Grey Literature for additional types of grey literature.

Grey literature can be difficult to locate because it is often not indexed or organized. See the Grey Literature Guides and review the boxes below for more information on identifying and finding grey literature for your research.

Identifying Grey Literature in the Library

It can be difficult to identify grey literature within the library databases, as it generally will not be labeled as such and there is no limiter specifically for "grey literature." Look for the following options within the "Source Types" or "Resource Type" area of the search results (usually found within the limiters in the left column):

  • Conference Proceedings
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Government Documents
  • Reports
  • Working Papers

Grey Literature Sources by Resource Type

Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Conference Proceedings

Find conference proceedings from nearly 50 disciplines and hundreds of conferences. 

Google Advanced Search

Search by .gov domain in Google Advanced Search to find government documents.

 

Google Advanced Search also allows you to search for results with a specific file type, such as .pdf, .doc, .ppt, and .xls. Grey literature as government and organizational reports are often available as PDF or Word document.

Look for the "file type" box in Google Advanced Search and select the file type you would like to search.

Business Source Ultimate

This database contains thousands of business periodicals and scholarly journals as well as company profiles, SWOT reports, case studies, country profiles, and industry profiles.

Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Research Paper Series

Find research reports from nearly 50 different disciplines.

Dissertations & Theses Global:  The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection

This database contains a comprehensive collection of dissertations and theses on a variety of topics in the humanities and social sciences, including business topics.

Evaluating Grey Literature

Since grey literature is not published through traditional means, it is especially important to evaluate it carefully for credibility. The AACODS checklist can help you evaluate grey literature.

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Research Appointments

The CSU librarians can support you during the research process with personalized reference services. We are happy to help you with the following tasks:

  • Accessing and using the CSU Library databases in order to create a peer-reviewed literature review with library resources
  • Using free personalized database folders within multiple database platforms to organize your research
  • Brainstorming keywords and recommending search limiters to use
  • Locating the dissertations and theses that may support and inform your research process