Finding Information: Gray Literature

Key Topics

Grey or Gray Literature

The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature (GL '99) in Washington, DC, in October 1999 defined grey literature as follows: "That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers."

In general, grey literature publications are non-conventional, fugitive, and sometimes ephemeral publications. They may include, but are not limited to the following types of materials: reports (pre-prints, preliminary progress and advanced reports, technical reports, statistical reports, memoranda, state-of-the art reports, market research reports, etc.), theses, conference proceedings, technical specifications and standards, non-commercial translations, bibliographies, technical and commercial documentation, and official documents not published commercially (primarily government reports and documents) (Alberani, 1990).

By virtue of the definition above, it is obvious that grey literature encompasses a lot of different types of materials and publications and is generally not going to be found through standard indexing sources. Other definitions are listed below but they all pretty much concur that grey literature is difficult to confirm and locate.

When searching for grey literature it is often best to try the originating source first and then look for organizations that might have started to build indexes or databases of such information. A number of technical report and periodical literature databases covering a variety of topics are listed.

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Definitions and More Explanations

Carroll, Bonnie (IIA) and Klein, Bonnie (Defense Technical Information Center). Grey Literature in Government: Mixing Up Black & White. 21st Annual National Online Meeting & IOLS 2000; May 16-18, 2000, New York, NY.

GREYNET'S NEWSLETTER. NewsBriefNews Vol. 7, No. 4.

Grey Literature is "That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers moves the field of grey literature beyond established borders into new frontiers, where lines of demarcation between conventional/non-conventional and published/unpublished literature cease to obstruct further development and expansion. At the same time, this new definition challenges commercial publishers to rethink their position on grey literature."

Gray Information Functional Plan. The Interagency Gray Literature Working Group. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Executive Agent. APPENDIX A: GLOSSARY

Gray information/literature - foreign or domestic open source material that usually is available though specialized channels and may not enter normal channels or systems of publication, distribution, bibliographic control, or acquisition by booksellers or subscription agents. Gray literature, regardless of media, can include, but is not limited to, research, technical, and economic trip reports, working papers, discussion papers, unofficial government documents, proceedings, preprints, research reports, studies, dissertations and theses, trade literature, market surveys, and newsletters. This material cuts across scientific, political, socioeconomic, and military disciplines. Organizations that typically generate the largest quantities of gray literature include: research establishments (laboratories and institutes), national governments, private publishers (pressure groups/political parties), corporations, trade associations/unions, think tanks, and academia. A document with an ISBN number may still be classified as gray literature.

Gray Literature: Finding the Needle in the Haystack
Presentation by Bonnie Klein at the Military Librarians Workshop, November 1997

Grey Literature '99 conference reports
Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Fall 1999

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Technical Report and Periodical Literature Databases

Air University Research Database
Contains information on all research being conducted at Air University and provides access to completed research products. Each research record contains the title, a brief description, a list of authors and faculty advisors, keywords, and an abstract.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics [AIAA] Meetings Papers Searchable Citation Database
The AIAA Meetings Papers Searchable Database is updated quarterly and contains author, title, paper number, conference date and location information for papers presented at AIAA meetings from 1999 to the present.

American Society of Civil Engineers' Civil Engineering Database
Searchable database of over 80,000 bibliographic records from its publications, including journals, conference proceedings, books, standards, manuals, magazines and newsletters retrospective to 1975. Searching is by keyword, author, title, or date. Aerospace engineering is one of the subject areas included.

Argonne National Laboratory [ANL] Mathematics and Computer Science [MCS] Division Publications
Compressed files on FTP server provide access to abstracts of preprints and reports, ANL reports, technical memoranda and more.

Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) Technical Report Server
Allows users to search abstracts database for AEDC technical reports issued since 1986.

Chemical Propulsion Information Agency [CPIA] Propulsion Database
The Web version of the CPIA unlimited-distribution Propulsion Information Retrieval System (PIRS) and contains over 19,000 citations of unlimited-distribution DoD, military services, NASA, and contractor technical reports and JANNAF and AIAA conference papers covering 25 years of propulsion technology.

DoE Information Bridge
Access to over 65,000 full-text reports produced by the Department of Energy. Coverage begins in 1995. Topics include: research and development reports in physics, chemistry, materials, biology, environmental sciences, energy technologies, engineering, computer and information science, renewable energy, and more.

DoE OpenNet
References to Department of Energy documents declassified and made publicly available after October 1, 1994.

DoE Reports Bibliographic Database
Citations to energy reports dating January 1, 1994 to present.

DoE's FETC Publications
Federal Energy Technology Center [FETC]. This site provides access to their various reports and conferences.

DoE's LLNL Documents On-Line
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides access to over 26,000 full-text documents from 1994 forward.

DTIC's Scientific & Technical Information Network (STINET) Documents On-Line Home Page
Citations to reports from DTIC, a clearinghouse for a variety of defense-related scientific and technical publications. Through the STINET database, DTIC indexes and abstracts these reports, providing full-text to some reports. The STINET database has coverage from 1975.

Energy Citations Database
From the Department of Energy, this database contains bibliographic records for energy and energy-related scientific and technical information from DOE and its predecessor agencies. Coverage is from 1948 to the present and includes citations to report literature, conference papers, journal articles, books, dissertations, and patents.

Access point to 67 journals, over 20,000 abstracts and over 15,000 online papers related to economics.

EnergyPortal Search
Provides a distributed search capability of energy-related collections. Those collections include: various DOE databases, DTIC's Technical Reports Database, IBM Patents database, NASA CASI Technical Reports, PubSCIENCE as well as a number of subject specific databases.

Engineering E-Journal Search Engine
Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL) site searches the full-text of over 100 engineering e-journals that are freely available.

Environmental Grey Literature Search database [University of Toronto]
Allows you to search an environmental literature database comprised of government documents, technical reports and unpublished manuscripts.
Allows you to browse an alphabetical title listing.

ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center)
This database provides access to educational literature document and journal citations from 1966 to the present.

The FBIS Gray Literature Tracking Database (GLTDB)
Contains summary information on gray literature (open source information not available by subscription) documents that have been collected by FBIS (Foreign Broadcast Information Service) bureaus overseas. Access to FBIS information is limited to the U.S. Government agencies and their contractors.

Federal R&D Project Summaries
Federal R&D Project Summaries includes more than 240,000 research summaries and awards by three of the major sponsors of research in the Federal government. The Federal databases available via this tool are the Department of Energy R&D Project Summaries; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) CRISP (Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects) Current Awards; and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Award Data. These tools are maintained by OSTI, a part of the DOE Office of Science.

GrayLIT Network
Described as the world's most comprehensive portal to Federal gray literature, the GrayLITNetwork simultaneously browses the search engines of distributed gray literature collections, providing search capability to over 100,000 full-text government technical reports without first having to know the sponsoring agency. Collections in the GrayLIT collaboration include the DOE Information Bridge; the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) Report Collection; the EPA National Environmental Publications Internet Site (NEPIS); the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Reports; and the NASA Langley Technical Reports.

Grey Literature Report
A quarterly report of the latest grey literature acquisitions at The New York Academy of Medicine

High Wire Press
Stanford University develops and maintains the Web versions of important journals in biomedicine and other disciplines.

ICASE Technical Report Server [Institute for Computer Applications in Science and Engineering]
Provides access to the full-text of ICASE technical reports from 1991 to the present.

INFORMS [Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences]
Provides access to articles, conference papers, research reports and slide presentation in the Operations Research field. Coverage begins in 1976.

Institute for Systems Research [ISR] Technical Reports [University of Maryland]
This site provides access to the full-text of all ISR technical reports from 1985 to the present. Also included are PhD, MS and BS theses.

Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) Gray Literature
Provides access to the full-text collection of ad-hoc analyses, reports, and presentations conducted by members of IMPROVE.

LACHSR Grey Literature Cyber Library [Clearinghouse on Health Sector Reform in Latin America and the Caribbean]
Grey Literature Database
Grey Literature Fulltext Documents

Latvia's Grey Literature Database
This database contains the full-text of grey literature materials created in Latvia.

Mesocale Alpine Programme [MAP] List - MDC.html
MAP Data Centre, Institute for Atmospheric Science, Swiss Meteorological Institute. This is a compilation of reviewed and "gray" literature related to mountain meteorology.

NACA [National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics] Digital Library
As the predecessor to NASA, this site provides access to the digitized versions of NACA documents and reports from 1917-1958.

NAS [NASA Advanced Supercomputing] Technical Reports
2000 to present
Archive [1989-1999]
Conference papers

NASA Center for AeroSpace Information (CASI)
Provides citation and abstract references to reports in the aerospace field. Coverage begins in 1915.

NASA Astrophysics Data System
NASA-funded project that provides free access to the full text of articles in astronomy and astrophysics. Most of the major astronomical journals are included.

NASA/CASI Technical Report Server
This site allows the user to search NACA, NASA technical reports, and open literature.

NASA Dryden Technical Report Server (DTRS)
This site provides indexing and full-text of many reports from 1947 to the present.

NASA Glenn Technical Reports Server - LeTRS
This site indexes reports created at NASA's Glenn research facility from 1980 to the present. Some full-text reports are available.

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Technical Report Server
This site provides access to over 11,000 technical reports online.

NASA Langley Technical Reports - LTRS
This database provides access to publicly available online NASA documents covering aeronautical and space science. There are over 2,500 full-text reports from the 1960s to the present.

NASA Technical Reports Server - NTRS
This site allows the user to simultaneously search multiple NASA technical report servers and other NASA relates sites.

NASA Tech Briefs
A digest of new NASA technology.

NASA Thesaurus
This thesaurus contains the authorized subject terms used for indexing the documents in the NASA SDI databases. (1998 edition with supplement)

NASG Airfoil Database [Nihon University Aero Students Group]

National Environmental Publications Internet Site [NEPIS]
This site gives access to the full text of over 7,000 EPA publications.

National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] Aviation Accident/Incident Database
This NTSB database is the official repository for aviation accidents data. Coverage is from 1983 to the present.

NATO RTO [Research and Technology Organization] / AGARD [Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research]
This database provides searching of abstracts of full-text documents. Listings of publications can be found at

NCSTRL [Networked Computer Science Technical Reports Library at ICASE]
Provides an international collection of computer science technical reports from CS departments, industry and government research laboratories.

NPARC Alliance Lessons Learned Database
NPARC Alliance is a partnership between the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) and the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) dedicated to the establishment of a national, applications oriented computational fluid dynamics (CFD) capability.

Organizations Producing Grey Literature in Public Health and Health Policy

PrePRINT Network
This Department of Energy (DOE) site is a searchable gateway to preprint servers that deal with scientific and technical literature in areas that are of concern to DOE.
Subject Pathways are organized into subject-specific categories.
Browse provides an alphabetic listing of all the sites accessible through the PrePRNT Network.

Developed by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI). Coverage: Peer-reviewed journal literature in the physical sciences and other energy-related disciplines.

Reports and Grey Literature [Open University]
This site provides annotated links to many grey literature sites.

ResearchIndex [CiteSeer]
Provides access to the full text of research papers on a wide variety of computer topics such as artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, information retrieval, networking, operating systems, security and more. Check out their browsable directory (linking to full text papers) of computer science topics.

sciBASE allows you to search the world's premier database of scientific, technical and medical research literature for free. Access to the full-text of the articles does, however, require payment. sciBASE currently includes approximately 12 million articles published since 1993 in more than 20,000 journals.

Scientific and Technical Aerospace Reports (STAR)
1996-present. Updated biweekly. STAR lists citations with abstracts for aerospace-related reports obtained from worldwide sources. It is published biweekly and includes documents that have recently been entered into the NASA Scientific and Technical Information (STI) Database(s). STAR is available as PDF files only.

Scientific Societies
This page, which is provided by the DOE PrePRINT Network, provides links to the scientific societies and associations which focus on topics related to the Department of Energy's research and development initiatives. Many of these societies provide electronic publications and are a good place to look for topical research.

SeaWeb Aquaculture Clearinghouse
SeaWeb is a clearinghouse of information related to aquaculture issues including background reports and issue papers.

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Technical Papers
Aerospace papers
Ground Vehicles

Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE) Symposium Paper Search Utility
Searchable index of the abstracts of SFTE papers.

Bibliographic database that contains references to publications about life sciences research related to space.

Spatial Odyssey
This GIS literature database provides access to the table of contents of many GIS conference proceedings and articles since 1991.

SPIE [International Society of Optical Engineering] Web
This database allows you to access the table of contents of over 4,000 volumes and 150,000 journal and proceedings abstracts related to optics research.

TRIS Online [Transportation Research Information Service]
Citations to more than 400,000 books, journal articles, and technical reports on transportation research from the 1960s to the present.

Virtual Technical Reports Center [University of Maryland Libraries]
EPrints, Preprints, & Technical Reports on the Web.

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Additional Resources

Alberani V, Pietrangeli PDC, Mazza AMR (1990). The use of grey literature in health sciences: a preliminary survey. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 78(4): 358-363.

Cutler, Deborah A. "Grey Literature in Energy: A Shifting Paradigm."
The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature, October 4-5, 1999.

Warnick Walter L. "Tapping the Information Age to Fuel the Science Mission."
DOE Site Managers Meeting Held at the Environmental Measurements Laboratory, September 14, 1999.

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