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COMM 3360: Principles of Public Relations

What is gray literature?

Gray literature refers to information which is not conventionally published in academic books or peer-reviewed journal articles.

Often such literature lacks a formal publisher, making it difficult to find through library databases. Gray literature includes theses and dissertations, conference papers, government publications, and industry white papers.

A white paper is an authoritative and detailed report often, but not always, issued by businesses or government agencies.

White papers help readers understand issues and the policies meant to address them. In business, white papers sometimes take the form of marketing presentations. 

Gray literature may provide you with salient information on a topic, including industry statistics, company performance, business strategy, market analysis, and more. 

Finding white papers

One way to locate gray literature is to identify associations that represent or lobby on behalf of the company or industry you're researching. This is often a simple matter of searching Google: just pair your industry with one of the following keywords: trade group, business association, or industry body. For example, searching "outdoor recreation association" points us toward the...


Once you've found a trade group like AORE, look for a Resources or Publications tab like this one:

Among other freely-available AORE publications is the group's annual report, which explains what "AORE has accomplished in a specific year, why we do what we do, and the impact we have on the outdoor recreation and education community."