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ENVS 230: Reports and Other Grey Literature

This guide will help you find resources to complete your work in ENVS 230

Sources of Grey Literature

As quoted by the Grey Literature International Steering Committee (GLISC) (see page 1), grey literature has been defined as:
 
Information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing i.e. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body.

In other words, the work is not tied to or controlled by commercial publishers (like the companies that publish your textbooks), who seek profit on the research or information produced.  Grey literature is self-published and typically comes from:

  • Government agencies
  • Research institutes
  • Organizations or companies
  • Associations

While not having gone under traditional "peer review", grey literature is an excellent source when researching topics when governmental departments, non-governmental organizations, and other interested groups who are not working within academia are likely to be producing and disseminating information.

Reports generated by all levels of government are considered grey literature. These reports are often available via governmental websites, but are also found in library catalogues and databases. These reports are written by experts working within the government, and are an excellent source of information.

Tips for finding government reports:

  • If you are looking for older reports, they were often printed and are kept in library collections. You can search by the author using the ministry or department as the author
  • Newer reports are available on ministry and department websites. Government websites are often re-designed, and sometimes the location of these reports is hard to find. Press releases announcing reports will often link to the report itself, or you can use advanced Google search operators (see below) to search for reports on the website.

Some places to start:

Legislation and regulations are also important resources to consider in your search. Federal and provincial legislation and regulations are available online. When searching it's important to know who is responsible for legislating and regulating the area in question - this information is typically available on ministry and departmental websites.

Stakeholders and rightsholders will also create and disseminate reports, often through their websites. As with government-generated reports, these are written by experts in their fields, but outside the realm of academic publishing. This category includes Indigenous Nations, advocacy groups,  ENGOs,

Search tips:

  • Use your knowledge of the topic to think of which groups would consider themselves stakeholders and rightsholders. You may find additional information in press coverage, social media posts, and academic articles.
  • Once you have identified these groups, find their online presence - check out their websites (especially the 'About Us' sections), and see what others say about these organizations.
  • Organizations will often have a publications section for their reports - you can also use advanced Google search operators (see below) to quickly search their websites.

 

Some Examples of Reports:

Advanced Google Searching - the key to efficient searching

Using built-in website searches is often an inefficient way of searching, especially if you are looking for very specific items or information. You can use Google to search for some very specific items, either by using search operators or by using the advanced search interface to limit your results.

Using "site" and "filetype" limiters

Here is an example of a search using Google search operators. This one is looking for the search terms "natural resources", is only looking at websites that end in ".ca", and only giving me PDF files. These search operators are described in more detail below

"site:" and "filetype:" are the two most useful search operators when looking for grey literature.

"site:" allows you to limit your search to a specific website or domain ending. For example, site:www.unbc.ca would limit your search results to those found on the UNBC website. site:.ca would search all websites ending in ".ca". It is important to not put a space between site: and the site you are searching

"filetype:" limits your search results to a specific filetype. When looking for grey literature we typically wants PDFs - including filetype:pdf in your search will only return results that are PDF files.

You can also use the Google Advanced Search interface to limit your search to specific web domains and file types

Subject Librarian

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Susie Wilson
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