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Sociology: Grey Literature

Guide to library resources for Sociology


Work that has not been published in conventional books and journals is often referred to as grey literature. This term includes reports, working papers, theses and dissertations, newsletters, many official and governmental publications,  and conference papers. The boxes on this page suggest ways of finding grey literature and individual authors.

Evaluating Grey Literature

In all subjects, looking for unpublished material is a way of counteracting publication bias, however, grey literature has not been through any sort of peer review process.  Therefore it is particularly important that you evaluate material very carefully to decide whether to use it.

The AACODS checklist is designed to enable evaluation and critical appraisal of grey literature.

A Authority

A Accuracy

C Coverage

O Objectivity

D Date

S Significance.

It was prepared at Flinders University and there is a very helpful annotated checklist available.

Finding experts

You will need to adopt several different strategies to identify the experts in your field and those who may have unpublished material relevant to you.

Your database search may make it clear who the key authors are, and provide their email addresses.

Join relevant mailing lists eg Jiscmail

Use social networking sites designed for academic or professional use such asLinkedIn or Researchgate.

If you are in health or social care, try CHAIN - Contact, Help, Advice and Information Network

NHS people may join NHS Networks - click on the Connect tab to find people with similar interests.

Finding Grey Literature

OpenGrey - formerly SIGLE - is a multidisciplinary European database for "grey" literature. In some cases you will be able to click through to the full text of a document or report.  Coverage is best for the period 1980-2005, although more recent conference papers may be indexed in OpenGrey.

BASE - the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine - is good place to search for "grey" literature. On the Advanced screen  you can opt to omit articles and thus focus on reports, theses etc.

Grey Literature Report The report is a bimonthly publication of The New York Academy of Medicine(NYAM) alerting readers to new grey literature publications in health services research and selected public health topics.

Useful websites include:

Department of Health

National Archives - Health wellbeing and care archived webpages

You may however sometimes get better results using Google Advanced Search with as suffix or old Department of Health suffix as domain name. is a US registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world.

UK official publications

Library Services hold large collections of UK official publications in printed form and online via FindIt@Bham. Some publications are freely available from government websites.  It is traditional to divide UK official publications into two main types: Parliamentary, which includesthe devolved parliaments and assemblies, and Non-Parliamentary, e.g. the reports and other publications of individual government departments and agencies, such as the Department of Work and Pensions.

For more information on how to track down the different kinds of Official publications see the Guide to United Kingdom Official Publications.

Finding Conference Papers

Web of Science indexes the published literature of the most significant scholarly or scientific conferences around the world.

ZETOC provides access to the British Library's Electronic Table of Contents of around 20,000 current journals and around 16,000 conference proceedings published per year. The database covers 1993 to date, and is updated on a daily basis. It includes an email alerting service, to enable you to keep up-to-date with relevant new articles and papers.

If you find a useful paper, but the University of Birmingham does not hold it, you can get a copy through our Interlibrary Loans and Document Supply

Many papers and posters presented at conferences are never published.  However, they may be cited by people who attended the conference or got a copy of the paper from the author or discussant or someone else who was there.  Sometimes you may find that the author has published the substance of the paper in a later work, meaning that you no longer need the conference paper. However if this doesn't apply, you can:

  • Search to see if a version of the paper is in an institutional repository
  • Contact the author direct to request a copy of the paper

Patient and Consumer Groups

Many literature searches will benefit from including reports and webpages which reflect the interests of the end-user, perhaps patient groups, service users, students or customers. 

Patient UK

Details of 1920 UK patient support organisations, self help groups, health and disease information providers, etc. Each entry is cross referenced and details are checked annually.

Patient Information Forum

For health information producers, for all sectors and at all levels. The network has over 450 members across the UK in the NHS, voluntary, public and commercial sectors and in academia.

Self Management UK

From the NHS, for people living with long-term health conditions. Formerly called the Expert Patients programme.


UK charity that supports and encourages scientific testing of conventional, complementary and alternative medicine and therapies.


UK national advisory group which supports greater public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research.

Health talk online

Health Talk Online contains videos and written information recording experiences of health and illness from more than 2000 people. The information is based on qualitative research undertaken at the University of Oxford. Subjects covered include cancer, dying and bereavement, pregnancy, later life and young people.

Patient voices

Uses digital story-telling to improve medical professionals' education and influence policy-makers.

For information on charities, try Charity Choice.

You should also be able to find relevant pressure groups, unions and suchlike by searching the web.


This page was adapted from  Lancaster University, with kind permission.