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EES1125 Contaminated Site Remediation

What Is Grey Literature?

Grey Literature is any literature that has not been published through traditional means. It is often excluded from large databases and other mainstream sources.

Be especially alert for grey literature generated by organizations involved in the cleanup or assessment of the site.

Documentary Films often also fit in this category, and for large environmental messes there may be multiple documentaries that have been released.  Pay special attention to the name and institutions of any experts consulted.

Grey Lit Sources

This list provides only a few producers and collectors of grey literature. Do a thorough search for sources in your field.

Government Documents

Website for various government levels and their departments may have relevant information.  Consider:

  • Local Government (municipality, city, county, council, parish, etc.)
  • Provincial, Territorial, or State Government
  • National Government

For the larger two levels especially look for and then search within websites dedicated to the maintenance of the environment since many  Provincial/State and National Government organizations maintain records of reclaimed sites. 

Institutional Repositories

Many institutions have institutional repositories, online databases of publications by their members. These can include publications by faculty and student dissertations and theses.


Conferences are nodes of new research, often featuring studies before they appear in journals.  Several databases allow you to search and filter your results by a 'conference' field.

Theses and Dissertations

Students conduct both systematic reviews and original studies for their theses and dissertations. These texts are not usually included in major databases.

U of T’s Theses and Dissertations research guide is an excellent resource, with links for both U of T theses and dissertations and those from other institutions.

Contacting Experts and Authors

Often, writers of systematic reviews find that some data is left out of studies. In such cases, a good option is to contact the author of the study.

Experts in the field can also be rich sources of information. Talk to an expert to find out:

  • Studies or information you have missed
  • New aspects of your research topic to consider
  • Sources of grey lit

Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers and magazines can be helpful sources of non-academic information. 

Refer to the 'Searching the News' page for guidance on how to search these sources.


Searching the Web

Sometimes, the best way to find grey lit is to search the web. Different search engines have their own search algorithms that will pick up different results so remember that there are search engines other than Google that might be more appropriate for your purposes.

A potentially useful search engine is Duck Duck Go. Duck Duck Go does not collect user information and therefore results are not filtered based on your personal profile.

Refer to the 'Searching the Web' page for additional tips and information. 

People as Sources

There is tons of information that sadly is never published or made publicly available, but people who were or are in industry know it.

If you find the name of an expert on a grey literature report, or an expert who was consulted in a documentary see if they have a professional website or blog.  Consider if it would be appropriate to contact them and explain that you are a student conducting research for a course. They may have copies of grey literature or data that was not made public - or know exactly where to find the information you are looking for.