Skip to Main Content

Grey literature: What is it?

Learn how to find and use non-commercial, non-peer-reviewed literature, such as government reports.

The value of using grey literature

  1. Grey literature is an important source of information due to the uniqueness of the content that gets published.  Because commercial publishers are looking to make a profit on the materials they publish, they often overlook niche research areas that serve smaller populations.  Grey literature is one way to search for information in emerging or less popular research areas.
  2. Grey literature can sometimes be more current that commercially published information.  It does not go through the potentially time-consuming peer-review process undertaken by commercial publishers, and therefore has a quicker turnaround time for dissemination.
  3. The importance of grey literature can vary between disciplines.  While the health and medical fields tend to favour traditional publication methods through well-known scholarly publishers, other fields like disaster management tend to favour the grey literature route.




  1. Evaluate what you find - Because grey literature does not go through the same "checks and balances" of something published commercially, caution needs to be taken when selecting grey literature to use.  As with any resource, even formally published ones, bias or inaccuracies can exist and it is important to have some understanding of the author/originator of the information and their stance on a particular topic or issue.  For more on evaluating resources in general, see the following page.  If you're looking specifically for a grey literature evaluation checklist, check out the following article, recommended by one of our faculty. More on the The Tyndall (2008) AACOD grey literature framework, as well as a printable checklist, is available here.
  2. Issues around longevity - Resources openly available on the Internet can sometimes vanish, particularly if they are older items or if the website is not being kept up.  If you find something useful, grab it!  Typically things found in a repository or database have more longevity, but for one-off items posted on a website, that is not always the case.