Business: Grey Literature

From annual reports 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.

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Go to DocuTicker. Scan a few of the recent postings. Go to the DocuBase for each of the following categories within social science: Business and Economics, Careers, Consumer Issues, Industries, International, Nonprofits, Transportation and Travel. What types of documents are included? What value do you see in this website for keeping up to date on grey literature?

Read Hahn, Susan E. & Wyatt, Anna (2014). Business faculty’s attitudes: open access, disciplinary repositories, and institutional repositories. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 19(2), 93-113.

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

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Browse the websites above. What categories of grey literature were you able to identify? How do you envision the information being used? List some examples from at least one website.

Grey Literature Specific to Business

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


Briefs are used in different ways depending on the discipline.


Catalogs are important information sources in business.

An auction catalog is a list of items to be sold at an auction. It generally includes information about the auction along with a list of the items with their lot number and a detailed description including a photograph, their provenance, historical significance, and other information.

A mail order catalog is a publication containing a list of general merchandise from a company. They are often sent through the mail to prospective customers. They generally provide a list of items for sale along with prices. Today, many catalogs are available online.

An exhibition catalog (exhibition catalogue) is a directory of exhibitors at a trade fair or business event. They generally provide an introduction, profile all the exhibitors at an event, floor plan, buyer's guide, advertisements and promotional materials. These books are often used by market researchers.

A parts book or catalog is published by a manufacturer. It includes part numbers, descriptions, illustrations and other information about each product sold by the company. Increasingly, these are available online. When seeking electronic parts in the automotive industry, users may look up information by the vehicle identification number to ensure that the part matches the specific model.

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Go to the Volkswagen catalog website.
Search for parts for a Beetle 2014 USA.

A trade catalog is published by manufacturing, wholesaling, or retailing firms. They're used for advertising, providing information and instruction about products, and sharing testimonials from customers. Explore digital collections with examples:

Scenario Stumper
I want to do "retro" type advertisements in our upcoming catalog and I'm looking for ideas.
Explore digital collections featuring trade catalogs such as Trade Literature Collection or Trade Catalogs Collection.
The Bottom Line... there are lots of online collections that feature historical ads and catalogs.

Data and Statistics

The United State government invests a tremendous amount of time and resources to compiling statistics related to businesses. Because more than 70 agencies produce statistics, it’s more efficient to use the government portals rather than the individual agencies to gather information. State and local government agencies collect and share data on their websites. Some examples include:

According to Abels and others (2008, 3), “demographic data are among the most versatile business statistics, with applications that are valuable for many business needs. They are particularly useful for marketing, for recruiting, and for planning”.

Read Ross, Celia (2013). Business (and other statistics). In C. Ross, Making Sense of Business Reference: A Guide for Librarians and Research Professionals. ALA Editions.

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


A business proposal is a written offer from a seller to a prospective buyer. Proposals may be formally solicited, informally solicited, or unsolicited. Solicited proposals follow published guidelines such as a RFP (request for proposal), RFQ (request for quotation), IFB (invitation to bid), or a RFI (request for information).


Business reports come in many different forms for a variety of purposes.

An annual report is a comprehensive report on an organization's activities during the preceding year. In business, they are intended to provide stockholders and others information about how the company is doing financially. They also provide a record of activities and accomplishments. They are used in all types of organizations from small businesses to large corporations and nonprofits.

Annual reports are important information sources in business. The easiest way to access an annual report for a company is to see if it's online. Search for the name of the company and the term annual report. For instance, a search for Apple annual report yields the Investor Relations: Financial Information page with the reports. The website Annual Reports is another way to identify reports.

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Do a Google search for a company annual report. Also, try using Annual Reports. Also, explore annual reports using at least one subscription database. Share your experience in a couple sentences.

Tax Documents

A few databases focus specifically on documents related to accounting, taxes, and tax law.

White Paper

In business, white papers are often used as marketing or sales tools. They often contains facts, features, and testimonials that help build the case for a particular product or service. In some cases, these documents present research findings. According to Graham (2010), there are three types of white papers:

Read Ross, Celia (2013). Company finance. In C. Ross, Making Sense of Business Reference: A Guide for Librarians and Research Professionals. ALA Editions.

Read Thornton, Joel (2012). Researching public pension plan. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 17(2), 153-169.

Institutional Repositories in Business

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

try itTry It!
Explore the institutional repositories above. Then, do a Google search for more such as business institutional repository or school of business 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.


Abels, Eileen, Klein, Deborah Piesetzner , Boyce, Bert R. (2008). Business Information: Needs and Strategies. Preview Available: http://books.google.com/books?id=2a--UHtpkcAC

Graham, Gordon (2010). How to Pick the Perfect Flavor for Your Next White Paper. ThatWhitePaperGuy, 15.

Graham, Gordon (2013). White Papers For Dummies. New York: Wiley.

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