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Humanitarian and Conflict Response: Grey literature

Bringing together the disciplines of medicine and the humanities...

What is grey literature?

Grey literature refers to research that is either unpublished or has been published in non-commercial form. The term includes the following types of information:

  • government reports, policy statements and issued papers.
  • reports or briefings from non-governmental organisations.
  • studies and commentary by think-tanks (research units usually outside of universities)
  • pre-prints and post-prints of articles.
  • theses and dissertations.
  • geological and geophysical surveys.
  • maps.
  • newsletters and bulletins.
  • fact sheets.

Many of the collections featured in the Databases page of this subject guide include grey literature.

Using grey literature at HCRI

While lots of materials that fall into the category of grey literature involve research, it is produced under different conditions from academic research. Like all sources, grey literature must be treated with awareness of its specific strengths and weaknesses.

In the areas of Humanitarianism, Disaster Response, Global Health and Peace and Conflict Studies, grey literature offers an important resource. Significant materials are produced by governments, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations, and think-tanks.


Some key collections and producers of grey literature are included below. In addition, there are many research institutes publishing working papers and reports which can provide students with valuable information produced by researchers in the field.

General grey literature resources

       British Library

The British Library reports, Conferences and Theses can be searched for through the British Library Integrated Catalogue.

Use these p tags if you need multiple paragraphs

       Google Scholar

Google Scholar provides a quick way to search for scholarly literature across disciplines and sources. You can find articles, theses, books, abstracts and grey literature from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other sources.

       GreyNet: Grey Literature

Grey Net provides information about grey literature. GreySource Index provides a list of web-based grey literature resources.

       Open Doar

OpenDOAR is an authoritative directory of academic open access repositories.


OpenGrey is a multidisciplinary European resource which provides open access to 700,000 bibliographical references of grey literature produced in Europe. It covers science, technology, biomedical science, economics, social science and humanities.
Examples of grey literature include technical or research reports, doctoral dissertations, conference papers and official publications.

       Science Gov searches over 55 databases and over 2100 selected websites from 15 federal agencies, offering 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information including research and development results. is governed by the interagency Alliance

       Social Science Research Network

Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is devoted to the rapid worldwide dissemination of social science research and is composed of a number of specialized research networks in each of the social sciences.

       UK International Repository Search

The UK International Repository searches across 130 UK academic repositories. Document types includes Report, Conference Object, Working paper.


Scopus is a user-friendly database covering some 12,000 journals from all aspects of science, technology and medicine, with some quite sophisticated features.

My Learning Essentials: evaluating sources

Evaluating sources of information

This resource explores the process of evaluating the sources you find to ensure they are relevant and quality assured, equipping you with the skills you need to identify high-quality information to use in your academic work.

Getting started with search tools

This resource explores Google, Google Scholar, subject databases and Library Search, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses to enable you to make an informed choice when selecting where to search for information.

View all workshops and online resources on the My Learning Essentials webpages.

My Learning Essentials: being critical

Being critical: thinking, reading, and writing critically
This resource explores how to be critical, highlighting practical strategies you can use in your academic reading and writing that will enable you to demonstrate critical analysis in your assignments.

View all workshops and online resources in this area on the
My Learning Essentials webpages.

Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Licence.

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