is a term used variably by the intelligence community
, librarians, and medical and research professionals to refer to a body of materials that cannot be found easily through conventional channels such as publishers, "but which is frequently original and usually recent" in the words of M.C. Debachere.
The U.S. Interagency Gray Literature Working Group, "Gray Information Functional Plan," 18 January 1995, defines gray literature as "foreign or domestic open source material that usually is available through specialized channels and may not enter normal channels or systems of publication, distribution, bibliographic control, or acquisition by booksellers or subscription agents."
Examples of gray literature include technical reports from government agencies or scientific research groups, working papers from research groups or committees, white papers, or preprints. The term gray literature is often, but not exclusively, used for scientific research.
The identification and acquisition of gray literature poses difficulties for librarians and other information professionals for several reasons. Generally, gray literature lacks strict bibliographic control, meaning that basic information such as author, publication date or publishing body may not be easily discerned. Similarly, non-professional layouts and formats and low print runs of gray literature make the organized collection of such publications challenging compared to more traditional published media such as journals and books.
Information and research professionals generally draw a distinction between ephemera and gray literature, however, there are certain overlaps between the two media and they certainly share common frustrations such as bibliographic control issues.
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- Debachere, M. C. Problems in obtaining gray literature. IFLA Journal, 21(2) 1995, p. 94-98.
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