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Grey Literature

A guide for navigating additional unpublished works in comprehensive evidence syntheses (systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and integrative reviews).

Grey Lit Databases

Finding Grey Literature


Databases that Include Grey Literature

Many databases include grey literature in addition to traditional literature, but may not index materials in a way that makes them searchable by a filter. The following databases use filters to limit by content types such as conference proceedings, dissertations, and government documents. Keep in mind - other databases aside from those listed may contain grey literature, so it is still useful to include them in your search. 

Check out the Databases A-Z List to see what's available.

If you have any questions, feel free to Ask Gumberg for assistance.

Pre-Print Servers

Pre-Print Servers

Pre-print servers provide open access to articles that have not been peer reviewed or submitted for scholarly publication. In addition to being accessible at the domains listed below, pre-prints are now searchable in databases using the "Publication Type" filter.

Note: Embase now includes results from bioRxiv and medRxiv when searching!

Using Search Engines

Using Search Engines to Find Grey Lit

Google offers an Advanced Search option where certain limiters can be used to locate grey literature.

  • Language of material
  • Region of publication
    • Listed by country
  • Last update
    • Ranges from within the last 24 hours, the past week, the past month, or the past year
  • Website/Domain
    • You can target results only from a specific website, such as Wikipedia
    • You can also target results from a given domain (.edu, .gov, and others)
  • Where search terms appear
    • Can target terms to appear in the title, text, URL, or links to that page
  • File type
    • Can specify for several different file formats (including Adobe and Microsoft files as well as others, accessible via drop-down list)

With these specifiers, authors can narrow down a Google search from millions of results down to more reasonable and accurate numbers. See the image below for where to apply these limiters.

Conference Materials

Reviewing a Conference Program

As mentioned prior, one of the many forms of grey literature includes conference materials or presentations. These resources can be found in many places including databases as well as online via the conference host's website. See below for more information on these pathways.

Conference Materials Accessible via Database

Several of the aforementioned databases specifically offer grey literature in the form of conference materials.

For some databases, researchers can narrow search results by material type. Depending on the database, the language used may vary. Conference materials could be listed as:

  • Conference Proceedings
    • Proceedings
  • Conference Abstract
  • Conference Paper
  • Conference Review
  • Speeches/Meeting Papers
  • Conference Presentations

Conference Programs Online via the Hosting Entity

Some conference papers or proceedings may be published or made publicly available freely on the Internet from their own website. Authors should look into past conference proceedings from relevant affiliate organizations in order to become aware of any unpublished presentations or papers written on the subject.

For example, the American Psychological Association hosts annual research conferences by region. Each region makes their conference proceedings available online following the event on their individual websites. The Eastern Psychological Association has a dropdown list where, under Annual Meetings, programs from Past Meetings are accessible. (See below).

However, not every organization may do this or have clear designation of past conferences on their websites. It can also be helpful to use a search engine like Google to search for past conference programs if they're not easy to find on an organizational website.

Conference Proceedings Guide at ISU

The two pathways to finding conference programs listed above only begin to cover the numerous online rabbit holes where conference information could live. Iowa State University has an excellent resource available on how to find conference proceedings available here. The tab of "How are They Made Available?" outlines even more ways that conference materials can be categorized or buried.

As always, in addition to this resource, you can contact a librarian for any questions or help in finding conference papers.