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Research for Literature Reviews

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Grey Literature

Grey literature refers to both published and unpublished research material that is not available commercially. Some examples of grey literature are:

  • conference papers/conference proceedings
  • theses
  • clinical trials
  • newsletters
  • pamphlets
  • reports
  • fact sheets, bulletins
  • government documents
  • surveys
  • interviews
  • informal communication (e.g. blogs, podcasts, email)

Grey literature can be the best source of up-to-date research on some topics. Note however that grey literature is usually not subject to peer review and must be evaluated accordingly.

Searching for grey literature is a challenge! Government agencies, research institutes, organizations, companies or associations will often have a link to "research" or "publications" on their website. Google is a great tool for finding grey literature. Our webpage on searching google effectively will give you techniques on getting the most out of your search results.

Sample grey literature sources

Government Documents

  1. Canadian documents- federal or provincial
  2. Intergovernmental organizations
  3. Think tanks

Conference proceedings

For many fields, researchers present their most up-to-date research results at professional conferences. These results will later be published in conference proceedings, abstracts, or preprints. These can be the most difficult material to find as some conference don't make their proceedings public. Use Google and Google Scholar to try and locate this type of material. Some library databases allow you to limit by "meetings", "conference paper", or "conference proceeding".

Library databases

The ERIC database contains not only scholarly material published from journals, it also contains "Eric Documents" which can be a range of materials such as curriculum guides, lesson plans, research reports, conference papers, publications of educational associations, and other research and instructional materials.

Theses and Dissertations

Most universities archive the digital version of successfully defended theses - typically found through university library websites. The National Library of Canada has Theses Canada Portal where you can search and download theses from across Canadian Universities. There are also several other Open Access Theses portals, which are listed on our "Theses & Dissertations" guide.