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Research Guides

ANTC71: Climate, Palaeoecology, and Policy: Archaeology of Humans in the Environment

Searching Grey Literature

What Is Grey Literature?

As defined by the Grey Literature International Steering Committee, grey literature is information "produced on all levels of government, academics, business, and organizations in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing."

Grey literature is commonly produced by organizations such as governmental or inter-governmental agencies, research institutes, professional associations, think tanks, not-for-profit organizations, and businesses. Because grey literature is not controlled by commercial publishing, it is often excluded from large databases or other mainstream sources. To find it, you will need to explore a variety of non-traditional sources to ensure a comprehensive search.

Key types of grey literature

  • Government documents
  • Dissertations and theses
  • Conference proceedings
  • Research papers
  • Technical reports
  • Statistics and data
  • Think tank materials
  • Policy documents

Recommended Guide & Module

Library Databases and Portals

Searching the Web

An effective way to find grey literature is to identify government agencies, organizations, non-profits, professional associations, think tanks, or research agencies that are likely to be publishing information on your topic, then search their websites. Look for sections on their websites with names like Documents, Reports, Library or Publications.

You can use the Google Advanced Search page to find webpages or documents from these organizations. Enter your keywords, then try one of the following strategies:

  • You can search by site or domain to narrow your search results to a particular organization's website. For example, entering would search for webpages on the UN's website.
  • You can search by file type option to narrow your results to PDFs, Word documents, or other formats. This is a good way to find full-text reports and documents. 

Government Documents

In Canada, government bodies at both the national and provincial levels produce relevant material.


Conferences are nodes of new research, often featuring studies before they appear in journals.

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.

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 literature