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  • Unpublished/ongoing research (e.g. clinical trials)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”):