Skip to Main Content

Survival Guide for Scholarship, Dissertations, Theses, and Scholarly Projects

Introduction to Gray Literature

Gray literature is all of that information that is not published in books or journals. Before the web, it was much harder to locate, but any Google search will have you swimming in it in no time. 

This guide will walk you through the various types and the reasons you may want to seek them out, as well as provide links to help you find what you need.


Why include Gray Literature?

Conference presentations, white papers, and theses can provide an important perspective that may be missing from formally published literature. Because of a publication bias toward positive results, journals and books are not as likely to include studies that have null results. Gray literature sources may also contain the newest thinking and alternative viewpoints in a discipline. Not only can the formal publishing process be slow, but it can also be somewhat conservative. 

Conference Presentations



Many new ideas come to conferences long before they're published in journals. You will want to check the archives of any major conference in your discipline.

Communication Sciences and Disorders


Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy - APTA does not have an online archive

Physician Assistant

Clinical Trials

Online trial registries may include results of completed but unpublished clinical trials.

Government Agencies

The United States government loves to collect data. These are just a few of the places they make it available to us. If your topic doesn't fall under the domain of one of these areas, another agency undoubtedly covers it.


Advocacy and Professional Organizations

The are an abundance of health related advocacy organizations, many of which collect data and relevant information for their constituencies. They may also publish white papers and practice guidelines that could be informative to your work. If you do not already know of the advocacy organizations related to your area, these lists might help you find them.

Dissertations and Theses

Dissertations and theses are great sources for new developments and trends in the literature. They also tend to have amazing reference lists.

International Organizations

If you'd like to take a more international perspective on your topic, be sure you check data and white papers coming out of these international organizations (and any others that might be related to your topic).