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Systematic Reviews and Evidence Syntheses: Searching for grey literature and on-going research

How to do a systematic review. How to find systematic reviews.

Searching for grey literature and on-going research

​Grey literature is generally considered to be material published or made available by organisations or individuals, not through commercial publishers. This can include, clinical study reports, conference abstracts, government documents, organisational reports, personal communication, pre-prints, regulatory documents, study registrations, social media posts and theses.

Searching for grey literature can be problematic as it isn't collected, organised or stored in a consistent way. You will need to be flexible in your approach, depending on the type of grey literature you need – this will differ from review to review.

Here are a few suggestions on where to look, please contact your outreach librarian for advice related to your review

Reporting your grey literature search is not as straightforward as reporting a search on a bibliographic database. You should aim to record the following information:

  • Name of web-site or resource used
  • URL (if appropriate)
  • Date of search
  • Keywords  used for searching or details of how you browsed

Further reading:

CADTH. Grey Matters: a practical tool for searching health-related grey literature. 2018.

Stansfield C, Dickson K, Bangpan M. Exploring issues in the conduct of website searching and other online sources for systematic reviews: how can we be systematic? Syst Rev. 2016;5(1):191.

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