Finding grey literature

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The increase in online and web-only publishing has made it easier for organisations to create and distribute grey literature. Use these tips and tricks to track it down.

The increase in online and web-only publishing has made it easier for organisations to create and distribute grey literature. Use these tips and tricks to track it down.

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  • 1. Finding grey literature
  • 2. What is ‘grey literature’?
    "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 library holdings or institutional repositories, but not controlled by commercial publishers i.e., where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body.”
    [12th International Conference on Grey Literature, Praugue]
  • 3. Why search for it?
    Includes information that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
    Detailed research results are often contained in doctoral thesis, conference papers, and preliminary project reports.
    Circulated before being made available through formal publication
    Most up to date information available.
  • 4. Characteristics of grey literature
    Not primarily used for commercial publishing
    Not part of traditional publishing channels
    Few bibliographic controls - ISBN, ISSN.
    May be high quality - but not peer reviewed
    Difficult to find. Not historically included in indexes or abstracting databases
    Ephemeral or transient in nature
    Protected by intellectual property rights - Copyright legislation still applies.
  • 5. How to find it
  • 6. Use a search engine
    Google Scholar Searches across institutional repositories and open access information. Good for 'grey literature' but note that many academic publishers are not included. Access from: http://scholar.google.com/
    Scirus Comprehensive scientific research tool. Search for journal content, scientists' homepages, courseware, pre-print server material, patents and institutional repository and website information. Access from: - http://www.scirus.com/
    Exalead The advanced search offers some different options to Google. Access from: http://www.exalead.com/search/
    Microsoft Academic Search Strong for Computer Science. Access from: http://academic.research.microsoft.com/
    Intute This is an academic subject directory, often useful for finding research collections, e-prints and special collections. Use this if you are unfamiliar with a subject area and need a starting place. Note that it is no longer being updated. Access from: http://www.intute.ac.uk
  • 7. Tips
    Limit format
    Limit domain
    Look for a Google Custom Search Engine
  • 8. Search for information
    Search engine's can't access information contained within databases. Consider your topic. Include terms in your search to help find collections of material about your subject
  • 9. Who published it?
    Search for membership bodies, trade associations, professional associations, research organisations.
    Look for Universities with a particular research strengths in your subject area. Check for an institutional repository that holds academics conference papers, pre-prints, project reports.
    Consider searching Europa (website of the European Union) for details of pan-european projects and background information, supporting legislation. Look for the appropriate Directorate General, or use the guide to Publications and Documentation.
  • 10. Searching within sites
    Check institutions websites for publications catalogues, research repositories and databases, libraries, archive, or digital library
  • 11. Institutional repositories
    An institutional repository is an online database used to collect electronic copies materials created by it's own organisation. University's have been the main adopters of this tool. It might include original research articles, thesis, dissertations, project reports, technical reports and pre-prints (Initial drafts of research articles, before they have gone through the peer review process). Contents may depend on publisher's copyright, and the institutions policies. Most are 'self-archiving' and depend on the researcher to deposit a copy. To find an institutional repository, use the search tools, or search the website of an institution directly.
  • 12. Directories of Repositories
    Directory of Open Access Repositories An authoritative directory of academic open access repositories. As well as providing a simple repository list, OpenDOAR lets you search for repositories or search repository contents. Access from: http://www.opendoar.org/
    Registry of Open Access Repositories Search by repository type, country, or subject. Also allows searching across all repositories through a Google Custom Search Engine. Access from: http://roar.eprints.org/view/type/
    OAIster A union catalogue of digital resources and is a major source for open access material available in full for free. It currently includes almost 13 million records from around 850 sources, including institutional and subject repositories. Part of the 'WorldCat' catalogue. Access from: http://www.oclc.org/oaister/
    IESR Free UK catalogue of information about electronic resources and research collections. It provides an academic "Yellow Pages" to support discovery and use of scholarly resources. Use IESR to search and browse a wide range of open access repositories, library collections and catalogues, image collections, datasets and e-learning collections. Subject coverage includes arts and humanities, social sciences, health and medicine, science and technology. Access from: http://iesr.ac.uk/
  • 13. Specialist Databases
    National Technical Information Services The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) provides access to the results of both US and non-US government-sponsored research. Indexes over two million publications, dating back to 1990. Access from: http://www.ntis.gov/
    National Transportation Library This database provides access to nearly 500,000 records in transportation-related fields. Sources include books and articles as well as some full-text research studies, technical reports, and conference papers. Access from: http://ntlsearch.bts.gov/repository/index.do
    Magic Project The project aimed to establish a collaborative system for the collection and storage of engineering grey literature. The Project has now ended, but the results are still available for searching. Access from: http://naca.central.cranfield.ac.uk/metres/
    Research Papers in Economics This site is an international collaborative effort to enhance the dissemination of research in economics and related fields. The project includes a mostly full-text database of working papers, journal articles, chapter listings, and downloadable software components. Access from: http://www.repec.org/
    E-Print Network This site is a meta-search for scientific e-print resources and enables federated searching of more than 30 major databases and servers. Access from: http://www.osti.gov/eprints/
    CiteSeer Scientific literature digital library and search engine that focuses primarily on the literature in computer and information science. Access from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/
    TechXtra Find articles, key websites, books, the latest industry news, ejournals, eprints, technical reports, the latest research, thesis & dissertations in engineering, mathematics and computing. Access from: http://www.techxtra.ac.uk/
    National Science Library / Canadian Agricultural Library Access from: http://cat.cisti-icist.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/search
  • 14. Thesis
    Ethos British Library service with access to over 250,000 UK PhD theses. Some are available in full text to download. Available from: http://ethos.bl.uk/Home.do
    Dart-Europe Browse open access research thesis. Access from: http://www.dart-europe.eu/
  • 15. Conference Proceedings
    Search Web of Knowledge to find Conference Proceedings. You will need an Athens username and password in order to be able to search.
    Web of Knowledge is a scientific database that includes book reviews, original research articles, reviews and conference papers. To limit the search to find only conference papers, run the search as normal. Use the 'refine' functions to limit your search to conference materials. Click on 'more options' under 'Document Types' chose 'Conference Proceedings' and click 'refine' to see the new list of results. In 'Refine Results' menu, scroll down to 'Conference Titles' to see the list of conference titles and quickly select the relevant conferences, or eliminate unwanted conferences.