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Grey Literature: Finding grey literature

Searching for grey literature

Grey literature is generated by a wide variety of public and private organisations and can often be disseminated in hundreds of journals and web pages. This makes it challenging to find grey literature, but various tools and techniques have increasingly simplified our ability to locate it. 

Finding the grey literature you need, requires a mixed approach. It involves using library databases and search engines such as Google or Bing, as well as employing techniques such as browsing websites of organisations relevant to the research area, or performing hand searches.

It's important to approach your search systematically as grey literature can sometimes be difficult to find. Before you start searching, ask yourself:

  • What exactly am I looking for? Be as specific as possible.
    • What do you hope to find out from the grey literature?
    • Are there limits on what you're interested in? e.g. must be about Australia, not other countries
  • Who might produce or collect that kind of information?

This will influence how and where you search. For example, if you wanted to know the most common cause of traffic accidents in Australia over the last ten years, you might start by looking on Australian government websites - there may be official records for that kind of information.

You should search those resources that make the most sense for your research question.The links and tabs below offer information about using these techniques to search, but if you have any questions you can contact a librarian for more help.

Searching library databases

The library subscribes to many databases which index different types of grey literature, including conference papers, reports, government documents, newsletters, and statistics. 

You can use the library databases to search for grey literature. You can also use the library databases to help you find information to guide you towards other sources of grey literature. Techniques such as author searches and citation searching on database materials can help you seek out important grey literature.

Searching for published conference papers

Where conference papers have been presented at an academic conference, published as a book or as a special issue of a journal, they can be readily found in library databases. Some key databases that index conference proceedings include;



One of the largest bibliographic, multidisciplinary databases. Covers chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, life sciences, health sciences, social sciences, psychology and economics, as well as biological, agricultural, environmental and general sciences

Web of Science

Web of Science indexes core journal articles, conference proceedings, data sets, and other resources in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. 


Tip: Explore the resources here to search for unpublished conference papers 


Search Engines

Google and Google Scholar can be useful search tools when looking for grey literature. Results returned will not necessarily be grey literature as they search many academic papers as well. It is useful to be aware there are a few tricks that make it quicker and easier to get to what you need.

Check the Google and Google Scholar search tips sheet for examples of using operators to further refine your searches.

Both the University of South Australia and University of British Columbia also have useful tips for grey literature searching with Google and Google Scholar.

Search tip: use Google to search across multiple Australian, state, territory and local government website pages by including (or to limit to Victorian bodies) in your search



Tips for using search engines:

  • Use multiple search engines - they often give different results.
    • Many search engines modify results based on your history. If this is a problem, try DuckDuckGo, which doesn't track user history.
  • Use subject-specific search engines as well as general ones if possible
  • Try restricting your search to .pdf or .doc files using the advanced search
    • These file types are often used to distribute reports and other documents
  • Restrict your search by domain if appropriate
    • e.g. Australian government websites end with

Common search engines only search a small percentage of the web.  Much of the information is not discoverable by web crawlers such as Google. Other specialised deep web search engines and portals, can be used to discover this "hidden" information. 


BASE is one of the world's biggest search engines for academic open access resources.

CADTH Grey Matters

A practical search tool for evidence based medicine.


A deep web search engine for all health related information.

A deep web search engine with a focus on science and technology information.


Organisations and associations

When looking for grey literature it is worthwhile thinking about if there is an

  • organisation
  • association
  • professional body
  • government agency
  • industry body
  • think tank/private research organisation
  • company

that works in the area related to your information need. Once you have identified likely organisations you can often locate relevant publications and research on their websites.                                                                                     


Don't let a question about how you cite a piece of grey literature be a problem. Most of the library citation guides  give clear examples  on how to  cite grey literature material such as conference papers and newsletters.