Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Grey Literature

Learn what Grey Literature is, how to evaluate it, what formats it takes, how to find it, and how to incorporate it in your research.

Grey Literature is used in a lot of fields to make decisions and further research. Engineers use standards put forth by government bodies for building equipment. Corporations use polls and social media interactions to adjust their marketing. Historians use diaries and newspaper articles to understand historical events. Psychologists use case studies to develop new practices. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Global Studies field, which is interdisciplinary by nature, is often bolstered by Grey Literature. Below are some examples of how and why Grey Literature is in Global Studies.

Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list - there are lots of unique ways to utilize Grey Literature in your Global Studies research.


Grey Literature in Global Studies

A major focus on Global Studies literature is the work of governments and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) to end social ills like poverty and hunger. Often these programs are only tracked and evaluated by the organization who runs them, so they are the only source for this information. This information can then be used to evaluate the effectiviness of different programs and approaches, which can then use prompt the scaling up the program. For example, several NGO's have started programs based on the idea of Universal Basic Income. The results of these programs can then be used to change the traditional approach to challenging poverty world-wide.

When looking for information on current events in global studies, news sites and press coverage in other forms are a vital source of information. It is no surprise that there is great variety in the information news outlets include and how they do so. In the absence of a lengthy Peer Review process, there may be consultations or excerpted opinions from 'professionals' related to the topic or area. You will find at times that there will be conflicting facts on emergent events as news outlets are able to create fuller narratives. As always, it is important to be mindful of the information you are consuming and fact-check it appropriately before accepting it to be true.

The voices you will most often hear in traditional academic literature are those of the privileged groups who have had access to traditional routes of publication. Alternatively, Grey Literature can provide a route to publication to others. Further, in environments when 'correct' literature has been limited by the government, alternative media can be a dangerous medium. There are many diverse perspectives and voices throughout the category of Grey Literature that represent a multitude of opinions about never-ending topics.

Academia has a well documented diversity problem, with the majority of its affiliates and publications representing a white, wealthy, western and English-speaking population. This means that several, possibly even the majority, of the cultures, viewpoints, and sources of knowledge on Earth are not adaquately covered by academic sources. Further still, cultural practices and knowledge cannot always be translated into acceptable scholarly works. Things like religious rituals, dances, music, cooking, societal values and manners, folk medicine, etc. are often taught outside academic structures, and it often more prudent to use Grey Literature for information about these practices than scholarly works.

Global studies is heavily tied to governments and how they interact with their citizens, non-citizens, other countries and intergovernmental organizations. Treaties, export data, import regulations, ocean pollution information, and so much more are the results of global interactions with the various governments of the world. The vast majority of these documents are Grey Literature and are used constantly by scholars for their research. The accuracy and objectivity of these documents can vary widely, and they are not as easy to find and access as one might assume, but they are still extremely important!