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Grey literature : Grey literature -Introduction

Introduction and definition

  © Image GreyNet, 2020 


What is Grey Literature?

There are many definitions on Grey Literature:

Grey literature usually means any research material that has not been commercially published, or which have not gone through a peer related review process. It is usually described as being the opposite to black literature publications, which is usually found in commercial bibliographic databases. The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature (GL '99) which was held in Washington, DC, in October 1999 defined grey literature as follows: ""That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers."

Types of format

Types of grey literature or grey information resources can be found in a myriad of formats and in very broad settings. Some examples are government reports and conference proceedings. Further examples can be found under Types of Grey literature tab.

Valuable information

It is important to understand the value grey information can add to your research. Grey information can be of high value and pertain good "levels of evidence". Often it can direct you to the best up to date information in your area of research or expertise. It adds strength to a robust research process where both grey information resouces as well as black literature (peer-reviewed resources found in commercial databases) are used in the research process. This overall point of direction leads to less bias in publishing as well as finding all of the useful resources for your research question. 


Grey Literature

Grey literature is:

One of the first more robust definitions stemms from the Luxembourg definition at the Third International Conference on Grey Literature in 1997:
This definition was updated, 2004 at the 6th International Conference in New York to finally arrive at the Prague definition 2010

("Prague definition") with four new essential attributes: "Grey literature stands for manifold document types produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats that are protected by intellectual property rights, of sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by library holdings or institutional repositories, but not controlled by commercial publishers i.e., where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body") Towards a Prague Definition of Grey Literature, Author :Schopfel, Joachim (University of Lille) ; 2020


Types of grey literature
Conference papers Blogs Government documents
Standards Lectures Technical reports
Patents Announcement Scientific reports
Newsletters Course materials Bibliographies
Brochure/pamphlet Bulletins Non-commerical translations
Research reports Bulletin boards Trade magazines
Policy statements Catalogues Repair materials
Annual reports Posters Preprints
Business documents Press release E-prints
Dissertations Essays Memoranda
Patient handouts Speeches Legislation
Leaflets Tenders Symposia
Working papers Interviews White papers
Abstracts Directories Surveys
Book chapters Programs/Projects Guidelines
Bulletins Questionnaires Toolkits 

@Jess Tyndall, Flinders University, 2008. How low can you go? Towards a hierachy of grey literature.

Literature searching & Research

SVHM Library Service help guides on how to effectively search the literature and undertake effficient research. Please book an educational tutorial to learn more: Online tutorials 

Guide Author

Anna Lovang, Senior Research Librarian
Carl de Gruchy Library, St.Vincent's Hospital Melbourne
41 Victoria Pde, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
(Literature searching, Education tutorials & Consultations, Nursing liaison)