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Information Literacy: 14. Grey Literature

Strategies used to incorporate research skills for the College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Management.

What is Grey Literature?

Grey literature is defined as “information produced on all levels of government, academia, business and industry in electronic and print format not controlled by commercial publishing i.e. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body" (ICGL Luxembourg definition, 1997, Expanded in New York, 2004). It is not found in traditional scholarly journal publications.

Grey Literature Video

This short video (2:39 minutes) by The Western University (Ontario, Canada) gives a very brief and clear description of grey literature.

Why is Grey Literature Important?

The value of grey literature varies between disciplines, but here are a few ways grey literature is important to academic scholarship.

  • Grey literature can be more current than scholarly articles; it may not go through a review process, which allows information to be more quickly disseminated. 
  • Grey literature often contains unique information that is not found in mainstream commercial publications, but can be found in specialized research such as unpublished studies, reports and statistics. 
  • Grey literature can sometimes constitute primary source material.

Keep in mind that grey literature should be evaluated for currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy, and purpose, just like any other type of information. Check out our Evaluate Resources Guide for more information.

Types of Grey Literature

Grey literature encompasses may different types of resources, including:

Blogs, bulletins, clinical trials, conference proceedings, dissertations, fact sheets, government documents & reports, informal communication, interviews, market reports, newsletters, patents, pamphlets, policy statements, research data & reports, standards, statistical reports, social media, surveys, theses, technical reports, tweets, white papers, and working papers.

Who Creates Grey Literature?