What is grey literature and how do I find it?

Not very many Brescia classes require the use of grey literature, but when they do the concept can be confusing.  Here’s the standard definition:

“That which is produced by government, academics, business, and industries, both in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishing interests and where publishing is not the primary activity of the organization” (Farace, 1998)

Despite the fact that grey literature isn’t published, it can still be a reliable source to use in your university assignments (depending on the requirements of your prof).

Here are some examples of grey literature:

  • Blogs
  • Census, economic and other data sources
  • Conference proceedings and abstracts
  • Informal communications (phone conversations, email, meetings, etc.)
  • Listservs and other networking products
  • Newsletters
  • Reports
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Unpublished/ongoing research (e.g. clinical trials)

Because grey literature is not published in the traditional sense (like a book or a journal article) it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for.  Many times you have to rely on Google searching, which can be frustrating.

As a start, I’ve put together a handout on the different types of grey literature and how to find them: How to Find Grey Literature – Aug 2012.  The same chart from the handout is below. If you have further need of finding grey literature, make sure to see the library!

Type Example How to Find


A Little Nutrition


A Slice of Nutrition

Google search for individual blogs

Visit major blog providers and search from there:

  • WordPress
  • Blogspot
  • Blogger

Clinical Trials

Biomedical or health-related studies in human beings

(e.g. preventative studies, drug studies, diagnostic or treatment trials, etc)

The Canadian government is still working on a comprehensive database. In the meantime, you can try:

Canada TrialsCochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL)Or search specific hospital or research centre (e.g. London Health Sciences Centre)

Trials in the United States:

World Health Organization: International Clinical Trials Registry Platform:


Conference Proceedings and Abstracts

Dietitians of Canada Annual Conference

International Conference of Dietetics

Not always accessible to the general public.  You can try:

  • Websites for conference of interest
  • Professional organization websites (e.g. Dietitians of Canada)
  • Doing a Google Search
  • Search the Library Catalogue (http://alpha.lib.uwo.ca)

Government Data

Statistics, census information, economic data Canadian Data:


American Data:



Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s)

Canadian Diabetes Association
www.diabetes.caHeart and Stroke Foundationwww.heartandstroke.ca/
Do a Google search for the organization’s website

Open Access Journals

American Journal of Food Technology

Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Directory of Open Access Journals:



Professional Associations

Dietitians of Canada Do a Google Search to find the association’s website


Company annual report

Government report

Go through the issuing agency’s website (e.g. Google search or visit Government Department website)

Theses and Dissertations

Master’s or PhD level theses Use the ProQuest database “Dissertations and Theses” through Western Libraries (click “D”):


What is Summon?

Summon is Western Libraries main search product, and the default search box on the Beryl Ivey Library homepage.  It was introduced to allow students to find all different kinds of resources (i.e. journal articles and books together) in one quick, easy-to-use search, which the Shared Catalogue and searching databases do not.  Traditional database searching, for when you’re looking for journal articles, can also be irritating as they do not exclusively list articles that we have a subscription to.

When you search Summon you are looking at Western’s Shared Library Catalogue content in combination with roughly 90% of our online, full-text journal articles.   Depending on what topic you’re searching, there are a few “citation only” journal articles too, meaning that an abstract might be displayed in Summon, but the full-text article will not be linked there.

Here are my pros and cons for using Summon:


  • Easy to use:  if you’ve done any online shopping, Summon’s functioning will seem familiar.  It’s easy to limit your search results (i.e. by format, by library, by date) and to save your favourite articles.
  • Interdisciplinary: almost every program can use Summon as their first step in the research process.  For Brescia’s interdisciplinary programs like Foods and Nutrition, Family Studies, or Community Development, this can save you a lot of time and guesswork in choosing a database.
  • Citation formatting: once you’ve sent items to your “saved” folder you can view them in a variety of popular citation styles, including APA, MLA and Uniform Requirements.
  • It’s easy to find full-text journal articles: many times professors will give you a citation of a journal article to read for class.  It’s much easier to find these readings, as you can type in the name of the article into Summon and often find it on the first try.
  • Full-text articles: while there are some limitations to Summon’s functioning, it is easier to find full-text journal articles over traditional databases.  Usually.


  • Missing content: case-law and some business publications are not included in Summon.  This would affect our Criminal Psychology students at Brescia, as well as our MOS students.  Print journal articles are also not included.  So, for almost every student doing a research project, it’s still important to rely on databases to search for journal articles, or else you will likely miss important research.
  • SFX window: the Get it @ Western or SFX window links you between Summon and the full-text of the article – most of the time.  Many students (and myself) have expressed their frustration with this window, as it doesn’t seem to make much sense and often doesn’t work.  There are ways around this issue, which the library can help you with, but it still can be annoying.
  • Too much information? Results not appropriate for your subject?: because Summon is searching every discipline, our online journal articles, and the catalogue, it’s possible that you can get too many results in your search, like when you’re searching Google.  Again, this means that it’s often necessary to use a database when you’re searching for journal articles, as it will narrow your search specifically to your discipline.

There is a lot more I can say about Summon, but the question I was asked was “what is it.”   Overall, I really like this product, you just have to be aware of its limitations.

What is CANSIM? How do I access it?

Note: Statistics Canada announced that its online data will be free starting February, 2012.

CANSIM is the socio-economic data available through Statistics Canada:  CANSIM stands for Canadian Socio-economic Information Management System. This resource is updated daily with the latest Canadian statistics on a wide range of topics, including crime, health, education, population, manufacturing, transporation, and more.


How do you find government legislation?

The University of Western Ontario is a depository library for the Federal Government: this means that pretty much every government document comes to us here in London, in one way or another.  So, a great way to search for government information is to use the Shared Library Catalogue or Summon.  Really!

The government has tried to put recent documents online, though, so many legislative documents can be found by searching Google.  I’ve listed some specific websites below to get you started.  If you don’t find what you need, though, come into the library – these websites won’t give you every piece of legislation since confederation.  Also: when searching these government websites, I recommend always using the advanced search screens, as they usually yield better results.

One more thing: I recommend the Canadian Legislation Table on Queen’s University Library’s webpage.  This was put together by the super-amazing Jeff Moon, my Government Information professor, from whom I learned everything I know about finding legislation.  The chart makes the complicated process of finding legislation much easier and is updated regularly.

Canadian – Federal

If you know what you’re looking for:

  • Department of Justice: For legislation and regulations  that have been passed into law (i.e. “Access to Information Act”)
    • Frequently Accessed Acts are displayed in the middle of the page
    • Otherwise, you’ll find what you need using the left hand menu
      • Browse by Consolidated Acts, Regulations, Statues, etc (if you know specifically what you’re looking for)
      • Use the Basic or Advanced search options for keyword searching
  • LEGISinfo: Senate and House Bills, Progress of Legislation, Coming-into-Force legislation
    • Current bills are located in the centre of the page
    • Browse functions are located on the right-hand side of the screen (i.e. browse by parliament number, house, sponsoring politician, political party)
    • Quick search and advanced search functions are located on the left-hand menu
  • Hansard: For accessing the debates in the House of Commons, starting from the 35th Parliament (1996)
    • Browse by Parliament using the bottom of the left-hand menu
    • Then use the index to browse by subject or name of politician.

Canadian – Ontario (Provincial)

  • eLaws: For browsing current and consolidated Ontario law
    • Click the “search or browse” button
    • Use the search box to search by keyword
    • Or, browse by title
  • Legislative Assembly of Ontario: for past and current Bills
    • Click the “Bills from Previous Parliaments” to browse for older bills, as far back as 1995
    • You can try using the website’s search box for keyword searching, but it’s not always that great
    • The Legislative Assembly also has an archive for Bills dating 1867 to 1995.
  • Hansard (debates) are also available through the Legislative Assembly, back to 1981
    • Browse by date available in middle of screen
    • An advanced search is available through an external site: a link is available from the centre of the main Hansard page

Leave a comment or write me an email if you would like more information added to this post!

Is the Canadian Community Health Survey available online?

Yes!  You can access this information online thanks to the Data Liberation Initiative, the government’s way of providing statistical data to post-secondary institutions.

For the CCHS survey data:

  1. Head to the main Statistics Canada website
  2. Choose the “Key Resource” tab near the bottom of the screen
  3. Choose “CANSIM” under the Data tables heading
  4. Click the “Survey” Tab in the middle of the screen
  5. Scroll down to the Canadian Community Health Survey.  You’ll notice that there is also a “Nutrition” option, if you prefer (click the title to access)

Once you’re into the survey, you have a few choices:

  1. To find how people responded to the survey: read the Titles of the different tables available and then click the Table Number (i.e. 105-2002) next to the Title you want.  Once you’re in, you can create a customized table of the data (see a library staff member if you need assistance here)
  2. To look at the  questionnaire itself: click the Survey Number next to the title of the survey at the top of the screen (in this case, it’s 5049).  There’s lots of other neat information here, too

For the CCHS Cycle 2.2, Nutrition (2004) Nutrient Intake data release, make sure to visit:

Foods and Nutrition students may also be interested in:

Articles on Canadians’ Food and Nutrient Intakes – Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2.2, Nutrition (2004)

I need statistical information: where do I go?!

Updated November, 2016

The best place to go for Canadian statistical information is Statistics Canada.  This website has received a major face lift over the last year or two, and is slightly more user-friendly as a result.

Statistics Canada is now providing census, socioeconomic, and geographic data for free. CANSIM is a key socioeconomic database that is updated daily. From the CANSIM homepage, you can either search by keyword, or you can try browsing by subject or survey. The advanced search option will allow you to be more specific in your search.

If you are searching for census or geographic data, you can search the main Statistic’s Canada page.

  • Enter a keyword into the “Search Website” space at the top right corner of the main StatsCan page. If you want to narrow down your search, choose “Advanced Search” – this will help you find what you’re looking for more quickly.
  • You can also try browsing by subject from the bottom of the main StatsCan page.


If you need statistical information on a country other than Canada, the principal is the same: find the governmental branch that collects statistics (or at least the census) and look for a search feature.

The United States, though, doesn’t have a central government agency that collects statistics.  Instead, you can use the following sites:

  • FedStats: breaks down available statistical information by subject. Also includes MapStats, where you can search for stats by geography, and much much more!
  • US Census Bureau: the typical information you’d find from a census
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis: for economic data

Thank you to Jeff Moon of Queens University for his assistance with this post!