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Grey literature is difficult to define succinctly but a generally agreed upon definition is that it consists of publications of various types from institution or companies that are not usually in the business of publishing commercially. These can consist of for instance business reports from companies, government reports about various sectors of the country or conference proceedings that are not generally formally published.
A list of what grey literature consist of can be seen here.
To showcase the variety of Grey Literature a few examples from the lists will be described here. Grey literature can consist of :
Theses PHD and master level
The importance of grey literature
Grey literature is important for many reasons.
1. It allows you to incorporate information such as government statistics and experiments that wouldn't usually be published such as experiments that led to negative or null results. This decreases any bias that may arise if you only chose formal published literature which is more heavily skewed towards positive results in experiments.
2. It allows you to understand more fully the full range of information on offer and come to a more reasoned conclusion with all the information you can rather than limiting yourself to only published materiel.
3. As it less focused on making it fit into the guidelines provided by journal publishers grey literature is usually more detailed than journal articles in terms of the experiment or study methodology and the context surrounding a government report. This means that the results and experiments that got there can dbe known in full detail.
Issues with grey literature
While grey literature is incredibly useful it does have its downsides:
1. Grey literature is quite hard to search as there is no one complete database due to the huge amount of documents.
2. As it is not part of formal publications process the information does not go through a formal peer review process so the piece may not be of the same academic quality as a peer-reviewed journal.
Some general tips for searching Grey literature
When searching for grey literature think of your topic and either through research or your own personal knowledge make a list of organisations and government departments that you would think would produce information relevant to your topic. For projects about public health in Ireland for example the HSE should have something relevant to it.
Use google advanced search to limit the results you get to certain kinds of websites for example .gov, .org or .edu. This allows more relevant information to be found it can also be limited to specific websites which for some websites may provide better results than directly searching it.
DkITmultisearch allows you to simply limit any results to only include certain document types such as reports, conference proceedings and trade magazines.