Social Science: Grey Literature

From law briefs to preprints, grey literature can be found across social science areas.

DocuTicker "collects abstracts of grey literature: PDF reports published by government agencies, think tanks, NGOs, research Institutes and other public interest groups". Keep in mind that this contains many documents that originated in the UK. However, it will give you a feel for the wide range of grey literature being generated.

try itTry It!
Go to DocuTicker. Scan a few of the recent postings. Go to the DocuBase for each of the following categories within social science: Education, International, Government and Politics, Legal and Law Enforcement, Military and Defense, Nonprofits, Social and Cultural Issues. What types of documents are included? What value do you see in this website for keeping up to date on grey literature?

Below are links to some good examples of grey literature information sources.

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Explore the grey literature information sources above. Think about how you might organize these for use by information users.

Read Scheuler, Steven (2014). Primary and secondary sources in history: a primer for undergraduate challenges for librarians. The Reference Librarian, 55(2), 163-167.

Grey Literature Specific to Social Sciences

Some types of grey literature have particular meaning within a discipline. Social science has a few of these types of documents.


Briefs are used in different ways depending on the discipline.

Scenario Stumper
I'm looking for the latest techniques being used by historical archaeologists. I find that journal articles are often "old news" by the time they're published.
Technical Briefs in Historical Archaeology is an electronic, peer-reviewed journal with a short turn-around. The technical reports aren't as long as traditional articles, but they provide up-to-date information about current project.
The Bottom Line... the latest edition of this online publication three articles that were published recently.

Data and Statistics

Data and statistics are used in many social sciences fields.

Looking for more ideas? Go to Social Studies Data Resources.

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Explore some of the data sites listed. Think about the types of questions that could be addressed using data and statistics from these websites.

Field Surveys and Reports

Archaeological field survey and inventory documents are generated during and as a result of field research. Many university departments and government agencies maintain a collection of these reports.


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Go to visit CogPrints: Psychology. Browse the recent additions. List a citation for a paper you found. Describe the type of document and why you think it's found in this grey literature repository. How do you envision users making use of this database?


Reports are found in most disciplines. In some cases, these reports contain specific contents and formatting.


Standards are found across fields. For government standards programs, go to the website of the particular area of interest:


Treatise are detailed essays focusing on a particular topic of issue.

Legal treatise are a particular type of treatise. They are scholarly documents containing laws in a particular area such as criminal law. These secondary source documents are useful as starting points to provide an overview of a particular area of law.

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Explore HeinOnline. Notice the wide range of legal document types available through this service. Do some exploring. List three different types of documents you think make this database particular useful.

Institutional Repositories in Social Sciences

Institutional repositories have become a popular home for grey literature. Some examples are provided below:

Links to Institutional Repositories

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Explore the institutional repositories above. Then, do a Google search for more such as law institutional repository or psychology institutional repository. Compare the types of materials that are found in these repositories. How are they alike and different? List a repository you located, the URL, and few examples of the types of information sources located in the repository.

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