Gray literature

It would be a mistake to think that academic journals are your only source for information. If your questions are about a topic that is understudied or rapidly changing, you’ll want to be sure to look for evidence outside of the traditional databases. In other words, you’ll want to search for gray literature.

Gray literature describes documents that were published by non-commercial sources, such as think tanks, non-profits, and government entities. It can offer the most up to date information about your topic or fill in the gaps for a question that’s not fully addressed in the academic literature.

Gray literature also includes unpublished research such as clinical trials registries, dissertations, papers presented at conferences, and research that never made it into a journal.

Finding gray literature is tricky. There’s no comprehensive, systematic way to find dissertations, think tanks, or conferences that might address your question. This is where your librarian will be a huge help. You’ll also want to talk with your subject matter experts and stakeholders about key sources of gray literature.