Section 1: Why would I need to use gray literature?

Some disciplines rely heavily on gray literature like emergency management, agriculture and the health sciences. Because gray literature can be an excellent source of raw data, statistics, emerging ideas and more recent research results than what you find in journals, it is essential to developing the most complete understanding you can about a particular topic. For example, in the health sciences, gray literature is essential to an evidence based practice and in producing systematic reviews. Gray literature is also not bound by the space restrictions imposed by publishers so it may include more detail and content than the published literature.

Finally, gray literature can help offset two common issues:

  • publication lag: results of studies may appear in gray literature, such as conference proceedings, a year or more before they appear in peer-reviewed publications.
  • positive result bias: study results that show a negative or no effect are published in scholarly journals less often than those that show a positive effect. Those negative results may be found by reviewing the gray literature.