Loyola University Chicago Libraries

Social Work: Grey Literature

What is Grey Literature?

According to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews for Interventions:
"Grey literature is the kind of material that is not published in easily accessible journals or databases. It includes things like conference proceedings that include the abstracts of the research presented at conferences, unpublished theses, and so on."  (http://community.cochrane.org/glossary#letter-G version)

Other examples of grey literature are:  government reports, policy statements and issue papers, conference proceedings, clinical trials, pre-prints and post-prints of articles, theses and dissertations, research reports, geological and geophysical surveys, maps, newsletters and bulletins, fact sheets, think tank research, pamphlets, interviews, surveys, informal communication (blogs, pod castes, email, . . .),  basically, anything not commercially published.


A repository is a place where something (in this case: reports, information, etc) is stored.  Here are some examples of research repositories:


Government Sources

Sources of Various Grey Literature


Why use Grey Literature


  • some disciplines rely heavily on gray literature like  the health sciences
  • can be an excellent source of raw data, statistics and emerging ideas
  • can be more recent research - no peer review and publisher processing
  • can have more detail and content because they don't have publisher's space requirements
  • study results that show a negative or no effect are published in scholarly journals less often than those that show a positive effect. Those negative results may be found by reviewing the gray literature

Grey Literature Sources

Evaluating Grey Literature

Grey Literature has not been reviewed by peers or experts.  Therefore, you will need to evaluate any sources you find.  For information on how  to evaluate sources, see Evaluating Information.