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ENVR 200: Intro to the Environment: Grey Literature & Online Resources

Federal Governmental Resources

WA State Governmental Resources

Salmon-Focused Resources

Finding grey literature

Grey (or gray) literature consists of literature or documents that are not available through the usual bibliographic sources such as databases or indexes.  

Ask yourself: What do I need to know? Who else cares about that, and might be keeping track of that or talking about it?What region am I interested in? What county is involved, what towns or cities?  In other words, who would be producing or keeping this information? 

Governmental agencies, non-profits, advocacy groups and others don't necessarily publish their works in conventional library databases. So to search for it, you'll need to be thorough and perhaps unconventional with your research. Start with Google and ook for sites whose URLs end in .gov  or .org to help identify non-profit and governmental agencies, as well as .edu sites that may point you toward the unpublished (grey!) work of academic researchers. 

However, know that Google can only go so far. It won't bring you back everything, and you may find that you need to search broadly to find sites that you then can examine more closely.  You will need to not just search, but browse, which means identifying the organizations and agencies that are relevant to your issue, and then examining their information sources carefully. 

Evaluating Online Resources: the CRAAP Test

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question? 
  • Who is the intended audience for this source? Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • How would this fit into your research? Does it back up what you’ve already found, or provide new material?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/ source/sponsor?
  • What is their expertise--denoted by degrees received, titles held, professional affiliations, years of activity in a field, publication history?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address? Who is making the information available?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from? Is the information supported by evidence? Is it documented and cited properly?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion? Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information presented as fact? opinion? propaganda?