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Grey literature

Use this guide to learn more about what grey literature is and how to find it.

Because the genre of Grey Literature encompasses an almost infinite number of topics in a wide range of formats, there is no uniform search strategy that will be effective across all subject areas.  However, here are a couple tips to help get you started with a grey literature search:

  • Start broad, then narrow your focus as appropriate with filters for the type of resource you need, like dissertations, reports, etc. If you are in Google or Google Scholar try utilizing search terms for the type of resource you need, for example
    • keyword AND ("conference proceeding" OR "conference paper" OR "conference report")
  • Try limiting your search to .org or .gov domains

Resources for Searching Grey Literature

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Create a Search Using Commands

1. Isolate keywords from your topic.

Image that lists the question "How does cultural competence impact the health care system in the United States? With cultural competence, health care, and United States highlighted to show how to pull them out in a search.

2. Narrow your search results to include all of your keywords using AND.

"United States" AND cultural competence AND health care

Venn diagram that has "United States" AND "Cultural Competence" AND "Health Care" to try and display how when using Boolean Operators the three intersect.

3. Expand your search using OR to find like terms.

"United States" AND "cultural competence" AND ("health care" OR healthcare)

Combining search terms with AND:

  • Narrows your search, reducing the number of results.
  • Makes the search focus more specifically on your topic.

Vin diagram that indicates how AND intersects (example written out in text in this box).

For Example

A search for "United States" yields 314,000 results results

A search for cultural competence yields 1,700 results

A search for cultural competence AND "United States" yields 429 results

Combining search terms with OR:

  • Expands your search and increases number of results.

Vin diagram that indicates how OR intersects (example written out in text in this box).

For Example

A search for "health care" yields 263,000 results

A search for healthcare yields 170,000 results

A search for "health care" OR healthcare yields 317,000 results

Combining search terms with NOT:

  • Narrows your search, decreasing your search results.
  • Tells the search to exclude certain terms.

Diagram that indicates how not works, when you use it for by saying NOT family you find caregiver without the word family (example written out in text in this box).

For Example

A search for caregiver yields 13,300 results

A search for caregiver NOT family yields 6,700 results

Use Quotation Marks to:

  • Narrow your search.
  • Combine search terms that are more than single worlds.

This shows the search engine that you want the terms to be found together. The search will look for exactly what you place in the quotation marks, so be sure there are no mistakes.

Vin diagram that indicates how quotation marks keep phrases together (example written out in text in this box).

For Example

A search for United States yields over 500,000 results

A search for "United States" yields about 300,000 results

Use Truncation to:

  • Expand your search.
  • Give your search tool flexibility to find alternate endings for your search term.

Diagram that indicates how truncation works (example written out in text in this box).

Search engines match your exact terms to results; they will not automatically find an alternate version of it. Truncation tells the search to match the root of your term and gives it freedom to find whatever endings it can.

For Example

A search for cultural yields 36,000 results

A search for cultur* yields over 95,000 results

These commands are called Boolean Operators.

Boolean

1. denoting a system of algebraic notation used to represent logical propositions, especially in computing and electronics.

What does that mean for you?

If you are having a hard time finding what you need, use the Boolean Operators outlined here to more efficiently search databases.

No matter where you are searching - the catalog, Google Scholar, a database you will want to use Boolearn Operators to refine your search to your specifications.

We are indebted to the Butler University Library's And/Or/Not box and to the Sarah Lawrence Create a Search Using Commands box for some of the content displayed here.

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