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Grey Literature or Academic Writing?

September 3rd, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

academic writingWhat is grey literature? According to some of the available definitions on the web, grey literature is the one that is generated on each of the levels of business, government, industry and academic segments in both – electronic and print formats, but that is not kept under control of commercial publishers.

In addition to the definition provided above, grey literature has also been called the one that includes everything with an exception for peer-viewed journals and books that are accepted by Medline. It is important to mention that grey literature has not been published in the conventional way, and what is more, it is pretty hard to identify and obtain by means of the usual routes. Exactly for this very reason this issue is called “grey literature”.

This kind of literature includes a great variety of material including statistical and government publications, fact sheets, reports, working papers, newsletters, policy documents, technical reports and bibliographies.

Papers are usually provided to inform various funding bodies regarding the research projects results or to show up preliminary results during conferences. This kind of material is quickly disseminated, usually in limited numbers, and typically it does not undergo any process of formal publication. Even in case it hasn’t been checked by the peer, the content it includes is still pretty useful and the creators of the regular literature searches need to do their best in order to identify this literature type.

Nonetheless, the process of both – identifying and tracing this kind of literature makes us face with the several challenges. Basic details like the date of publication, the author, the publishing body may be difficult to discern, making it not easy to locate and then cite various documents.  As for the low print runs, it may be quite hard to locate. This has not much to do with internet publishing, but with organizational and government reports. The lack of control from the editorial side may cause the raising of a bunch of questions regarding the uniqueness and trustworthiness of documents.

When the question is about the producers of the grey literature, a great number of organizations generate a wide range of grey literature that is relevant to health policy, public health and epidemiology. These typically include not-for-profit organizations, government health agencies (the National Institutes for Health in the USA; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Department of Health in United Kingdom), universities, health institutes, research centers, international agencies (UNAIDS and WHO (World Health Organization), special interest groups, etc.

There are debates about what place the web search engines take in the literature searching, and the experts tend to have strong disputes and some of them state that it is not a trustworthy source of information. But the thing is that in reality, the World Wide Web provides multiple opportunities to get an instant access to the grey literature. Search engines like Google have turned into significant resource of grey literature that is available for a great audience all over the globe.

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