Grey literature - part II
To browse other articles on a range of HSL topics, see the A-Z index.
Institutional repositories, preprints, etc.
Here are a few websites hosting preprints, or e-prints, etc.
European grey literature websites
Even though faculty members and researchers voluntarily self-archive their works, this material is frequently difficult to locate. What are the reasons for poor findability of self-archived material?
Impact of open access/ open searching
Trends in digitization and open access have given rise to institutional repositories. IRs collect and preserve published and unpublished information (e.g. lectures, data sets, research papers, electronic theses) and provide free access to all kinds of scholarly materials. IRs have the potential to promote change in scholarly publishing, and are linked to the open access movement. For further background reading, see the Berlin Declaration on Open Access and the Open Access Initiative. See also open search.
Grey literature retrieval in mainstream databases
A few examples:
Other places to find dissertations
Methods of finding grey literature
Scoping your search
Scoping searches are undertaken in a small range of major databases like the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, CINAHL, Google scholar and PsycINFO. Health librarians often go through a refining process and a full range of possible information sources. Full searches aimed at retrieving a maximum number of relevant studies begin. The scoping process is iterative and helps to estimate the size of the literature in question, and the cost of searching it. Many interdisciplinary search topics increase the likelihood of an time-consuming and expensive search process.
Identifying key, searchable sources of information is a process that varies depending on the research question. New tools and searching approaches are launched daily, but searching for the systematic review requires a lot of search trend tracking. Searching the top five or ten biomedical databases is not by any means an exhaustive list; additional resources should be identified, particularly non-English language materials. Some sources and methods of searching are well developed and stable, but search tools hidden in the deep web are not.
Is your topic current? A cutting-edge subject area? Is it Canadian? Of local interest? If your topic is about HIV incidence on Vancouver's eastside, this will limit the sources of information available to you. Geographic and national restrictions, public safety and intellectual property laws will limit access to certain types of information. A barrier to identifying and accessing some GL topics is a lack of familiarity with the subject, its indexing practices and search tools. It may be necessary to learn more about a subject as well as how to find it.
Are you seeking bibliographic references with immediate full-text; primary sources (raw clinical data, documents, publications); secondary sources (analysis, editorials); tertiary sources (EBM summaries, large reviews, digests); or comparable and/or comparative data and information?
Identify possible medical sources of information (databases, websites, experts) and, for interdisciplinary topics, tools in the related area (business, economics, engineering). It might be helpful to develop an understanding of your topic using a hierarchical approach.
The information needed about your subject may include social, economic, political, psychological, legal and ethical perspectives, which may be influenced by identifiable groups and groupings. Gender, age, disease or condition are/ may be important. Ethnic, religious, cultural issues may also be pertinent.
Building search strategies / checklists
A well-organized checklist and search strategy helps to maintain focus and direction in your searching. Many librarians have developed search optimization protocols and checklists to help build strategies. Bidwell and Booth have created protocols that are useful in documentation. <http://www.shef.ac.uk/scharr/ir/proto.html> The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) - formerly CCOHTA- and other health technology assessment agencies such as AHFMR have developed comprehensive checklists for grey literature searching.
When building search strategies, select terms specifically for each source. In consulting mainstream databases or Google, it is advisable to list keywords and variations prior to starting the search. Be consistent and systematic throughout the process and use the same keywords. It is important to create a strategy, compile a list of keywords, wildcard combinations and identify key organizations.
Tips and tricks on building a search strategy and checklist
List databases in priority order
Grey literature is increasingly referenced in scholarly research. Knowing how to find greylit is critical in scoping searches, literature reviews, and doing searches for graduate theses and doctoral dissertations. However, searchers often fail to develop sound, structured approaches to finding GL and spend inordinate amounts of time re-doing searches.
Major abstracting & indexing (A&I) services index do not systematically index GL. Even when databases index, there are no guarantees searchers will find all articles on a topic. To compensate for the limits of human indexing, hand searching can supplement online methods. Hand searching is recommended for systematic reviews (SRs) because of the hazards associated with not locating all studies.
Tips on documentation
An important reason to document your search is reproducibility. If called upon to reproduce your search results, you can do so by using your strategy and documentation that was painstakingly developed.