Skip to Main Content

Public Policy: Grey Literature

What is Grey Literature?

Grey literature are resources "Produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers." (Grey Literature Report). Since grey literature is not published in these traditional sources, it can be difficult to find.  However, grey literature is a very important resource in several disciplines and can include needs assessments, evidence reviews, policy reports, and statistical analysis. Grey literature does not usually undergo a peer-review process so material should be evaluated carefully.  The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy links to several lecture series here

Government Publications

Government information can be found in the Dr. John Archer Library in various formats (e.g., paper, electronic, microformats). It is generated by local, provincial, national, and international governments and Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs).  Government publications are not like books and traditional articles in journals and magazines but instead appear in these formats:

  • briefing notes - more information is here
  • laws
  • regulations
  • reports
  • statistics
  • surveys

Government publications are considered primary research.  They cross many disciplines and are often cited in journal articles, reports, and books.  It can be difficult to find government publications and especially if you are new to working with them.  Details about government publications are in this LibGuide

Think Tanks

Think tanks, or policy institutes, are agencies that are staffed by researchers, scientists, economists, and academics who conduct and publish research on various public policy issues.  Think tanks can be associated with universities or governments, or they can be stand-alone private organizations. Their documents are often cited as gray literature because they are not always available in subscription based databases.  One type of think tank is independent, non-partisan, and not for profit.  Some think tanks classify themselves as independent nonprofit entities but many have a stake on the political spectrum and can be funded by benefactors.  Other think tanks are sponsored and funded by governments to meet long-term technical needs in research and development and systems development.

Below are a few popular cited think tanks in Canada and the U.S.  A listing of Canadian think tanks is here, some U.S. think tanks are here, and policy institutes from other areas of the world are here

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI)  Headquartered in Washington, D.C. and founded in 1938, this conservative agency publishes research that supports limited government and private enterprise.

Brookings Institute  It is a liberal think tank that conducts research in economics, government administration and various areas in the social sciences.  Founded in 1916 as the Institute for Government Research (IGR), the present-day institute formed in 1927 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.  

Cato Institute The institute was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.  It publishes research based upon libertarian principles of individual liberty, limited government, and free markets.

Canadian Academy of Engineering It was founded in 1987 and is a full member of the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, which is an international federation of 26 such academies throughout the world, thereby achieving the international status reserved to a limited number of well established engineering academies having accomplished a number of major projects.  It's one of the three academies that comprises the Council of Canadian Academies.

Canadian Academy of Health Sciences It was founded in 2004 and provides assessments of and advice on key issues relevant to the health of Canadians.  It's one of the three academies that comprises the Council of Canadian Academies.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) It was founded in 1980 and is headquartered in Ottawa with five regional branches.  The CCPA reports and publishes on a variety of public policy issues.

Council of Canadian Academies The Council of Canadian Academies is an independent, not-for-profit organization that supports independent, authoritative, and evidence-based expert assessments that inform public policy development in Canada. The Council’s work encompasses a broad definition of science, incorporating the natural, social and health sciences as well as engineering and the humanities

Fraser Institute  It is an independent, non-partisan research and educational organization headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. and was established in 1974.  Often categorized as politically conservative, the Fraser Institute publishes peer-reviewed research into economic and public policy issues including taxation, government spending, health care, school performance, and trade.

Hoover Institution It was established in 1919 by Herbert Hoover (Republican U.S. President, 1929-1933).  The think tank is located at Stanford University.

Institute for Research on Public Policy This Montreal based agency was established in 1972 and has over ten research fellows who are largely from post secondary institutions.

Pembina Institute It was founded in Alberta in 1985 and focuses on developing clean energy policies in Canada.  It also has a fee-based consulting service.

Rand Corporation It was established in 1948 and is a global policy think tank.  Rand Corporation is financed by the U.S. government and private sector and researchers on defence and public policy issues.

Royal Society of Canada: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada (RSC) The RSC was established in 1882 as the senior Canadian collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists. It is Canada’s National Academy and its primary objective is to promote learning and research in the arts, the humanities and the natural and social sciences. It's one of the three academies that comprises the Council of Canadian Academies.



1980 when the Centre was founded. Located in Ottawa, it coordinates the CCPA’s national research agenda and publishes reports, studies, books and commentary on a wide range of public policy issues.

The office also publishes its national magazine, the Monitor (six times a year) and Our Schools/Our Selves, a quarterly education journal.

The National Office houses several ongoing projects

- See more at:

Subject Librarian

Profile Photo
Cara Bradley
University of Regina Library

What is Google Scholar?

There is much scholarly content in the Open Web.  However, it can be difficult to find with doing a simple Google search.  Google Scholar searches for scholarly material (articles, reports, dissertations, patents, etc.) in several sources including some library databases, open access repositories, and government sites.  A LibGuide that explains Google Scholar is here.