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Grey Literature

Grey literature is literature produced by government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers. Therefore, grey literature can at times be difficult to identify and obtain. It includes theses and dissertations, conference papers and proceedings, research reports, government documents, technical notes and specifications, proposals, data compilations, etc. Often grey literature does not have an international standard book number (ISBN) or an international standard serial number (ISSN). 

It is crucial to note where the term “grey literature” derives from. Grey literature comes from the uncertainty of the status of this information. Grey literature is essentially any document that has not gone through peer review for publication. You may be questioning what is the benefit of looking at this type of literature if it is not peer reviewed? The benefit is that grey literature can be published much more quickly since it does not have to be subjected to the lengthy peer-review process. As a result, in cases where there may not be much information on a topic in peer-reviewed research, grey literature may prove a very valuable source of information. Learn more about Grey Literature here.

Previously published dissertations and theses can be a great source of inspiration for your own dissertation topic. You can access millions of full-text dissertations and theses from NCU Library. Go to the Library’s Dissertation Resources page to see a list of databases. You can specifically access dissertations from Northcentral University alumni in the Dissertations database. Or you can explore the 1.2 million full-text dissertations available through ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. For more information on choosing a dissertation topic, see the Dissertation Topics page of the Research Process.

Conference papers and proceedings can be challenging to find because they may take several years to be published or may not be published at all. They can be published in various formats including books, abstracts, and journal articles; and, they may be deposited only in an author or institutional repository. Some Library databases, like ProQuest, make it easier to search for these types of documents by allowing you to limit your search to Source type. 


Government documents are an important primary source of information on a wide range of issues. Most government documents can be found through government websites. Usa.gov is the official web portal for the U.S. government. The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) is another useful gateway to locating published government documents.

Research reports contain the results of research projects, investigations, and surveys, and are usually published by the funder or the body undertaking the research. They can be found by searching the websites of subject associations and research organizations in addition to NCU Library’s databases. The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is an example of a research organization that provides access to its publications via its website.

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