Skip to main content

WILD 421 - Wildlife Conservation

Grey literature

What is it?

Grey literature is an important source of information which consists of "that which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers." (Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature, 1999)

It includes:

  • working papers or pre-prints
  •  government/NGO publications
  •  technical/industry reports
  •  conference proceedings/posters
  •  dissertations/theses
  •  oral presentations

Why use it?

  • It provides access to new ideas and perspectives
  • It may help counterbalance publication bias (the increased likelihood of reporting positive results)
  • It may be more current (as it is produced more quickly)
  • It may provide a more comprehensive view of emerging research areas

Where to find it?

Searching for grey literature can be hard because it is not produced by commercial publishers, it’s also scattered, vast and not organized. To find grey literature, you will have to search through a variety of sources: Google, government websites, databases, etc. (I have listed some of them below.) Asking yourself the following questions before diving into your search will help you figure out what you are looking for and where to search:

- What kinds of literature are you interested in?

  • Stats?
  • Conference proceedings?
  • Theses?
  • Reports?

- What time periods and/or geographic areas are relevant to your topic?

Remember that grey literature is usually not peer-reviewed, thus it is important to critically evaluate your sources. There are many criteria you can use to assess the quality of the information you find. Below, I’ve listed 2 relatively short checklists that provide a good starting point to appraise the grey literature you find.


Large multidisciplinary science and social sciences database.

Web of Science
Another large multidisciplinary science and social sciences database.

CAB Abstracts
A database that covers research and literature in the fields of agriculture, forestry, human health, nutrition, animal health, and resource management and conservation.

Resources from the United States Department of Agriculture pertaining to all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines.

COS Conference Papers Index
It contains mainly citations to poster sessions and papers from worldwide scientific meetings. Since 1995, emphasis was put on the life sciences, environmental sciences and the aquatic sciences.

Covers aspects of human impact to the environment, including global climate change, green building, pollution, recycling, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture.


Google and Google Scholar can be useful for grey literature but it should not be your only source. Here are some ways to make your Google search more efficient:

“Search a phrase” Quotation marks search for the exact phrase "This sentence only"
site:    Restricts your search to the pages of a particular website ( or domain (.ca)
filetype: Searches for a particular file type filetype:pdf
intitle: Searches only in the title intitle:"climate change"
- Excludes this term from the search canary -islands

(adapted from the UBC's Grey Literature for Health Sciences)

There's also this great Google Advanced Power Searching website for more advanced tips and tricks when using Google.


There are many ways to search for government publications: 


Canadian Public Policy Collection

Custom searches

Canadian Government Publications on the Web
This custom search engine includes federal and all provincial governments. If you would like to search for a specific provincial government, then you will have to use Google and specify the domain. 

Google search

Non-governmental organizations
Intergovernmental organizations

Agency approach

The following links will help you understand under which jurisdiction your topic falls under. 

Acts and regulations
Federal and Provincial Jurisdiction to Regulate Environmental Issues


If you are looking for theses, either from Canada or other countries, the library got you covered! If you are not sure where to start, click "email me" to the left or, even better, come see me!

Theses and dissertations

McGill LibraryQuestions? Ask us!
Privacy notice