Evaluating gray literature

The criteria you would use to evaluate gray literature are the same as those used to evaluate any kind of information. Consider:

  • Authorship: Not all gray literature will have a named author (or authors). If it does, you will want to consider whether the author or authors are knowledgeable in the field and whether they have any affiliations that might bias their views. If no authors are named, you will want to carefully consider the organization that produced the report.
  • Source of the Report: This information should be obvious and easy to locate. See below for more information on evaluating agency and organization websites.
  • Transparency of Methods: It should be clear where data and other types of information came from, how it was analyzed and how the final report was compiled.
  • Currency: The date a report was issued should be easy to find. If a report is older, try to find a more recent version or an update.

Evaluating agency and organization websites

Although it is often suggested that searches for gray literature be restricted by domain, do not rely on the .org or .edu domains when evaluating websites. The .org domain no longer only applies to non-profits. A lot of gray literature is generated by companies that use .com for a domain - it would be foolish to exclude it. Also, don't count on the professional look of a web page to indicate quality. Some very reputable sources of information can have websites that look dated. Some less reliable sources of information, on the other hand, are beautifully designed so make sure that you are evaluating content and authority independent of appearances.