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Political Science Research Guide: Grey literature

Grey literature is ...

also known as fugitive or invisible literature because of its elusive nature. 

Why is it useful?

It can supplement the formal books and articles you use for your research. Grey lit may be more current than published works or offer different perspectives that you want to consider and cite.

Grey lit takes many forms:

Some examples: working papers, internal planning documents, conference proceedings, and white papers. GreyNet's list shows more.

Who produces these hard-to-find items?

Grey lit is created by governments, universities, corporations, think tanks, non-governmental and professional organizations,  ...

Alternative spelling: gray literature

Where to look for grey literature

Internet searches ...

typically lead you to materials created from the mid-1990s to the present. When searching for your topic try including a site limit to target the literature produced by a type of organization, group, or government, etc.

For example here are 5 ways to limit:


Sample search: "working paper" "middle powers"
This search will only retrieve sites with  .org  in the url.

The databases below ...

track grey literature that may be buried deep in the web, or in a library collection, or is older.

Grey literature tutorial

2 minute video from Western Libraries, linked with permission.

How to cite grey literature

The citation style and the type of document you are working with dictate how you cite it in your work.

Refer to a guide for the particular style you are using (for example, APA, Chicago, MLA, ...) and follow the format for the type of document you need to cite, for example:

  • technical report
  • web site
  • interview
  • sound recording