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Physician Assistant Research Guide

What is Grey Literature?

The 2010 International Conference on Grey Literature provides this official definition:

"Grey literature stands for manifold document types produced on all levels of government, academics, business, and industry in print and electronic formats that are protected by intellectual property rights, of sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by libraries and institutional repositories, but not controlled by commercial publishers; i.e. where publishing is not primary activity of the producing body."  

There are many different types of non-commercial grey literature, which includes but is not limited to: 

  • Government documents 
  • Conference papers and proceedings
  • Policy statements 
  • Patents
  • Unpublished clinical trial data
  • Theses and dissertations
  • NGO reports  
  • Brochures and pamphlets
  • Statistics

Why Search for Gray Literature?

There are several reasons why grey literature should be included as part of any thorough literature search.

1.) There may be little information available on a topic 

2.) The grey literature may have the most current source of information due to publication lag in peer-reviewed academic journals 

3.) The information from grey literature can complement the information from peer-reviewed academic journals, and as a result, provide a more detailed and fuller picture 

Selected Grey Literature Sources for the Health Sciences

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