Organizations, institutions and governments are constantly publishing reports. Sometimes these reports are published in the form of a beautiful book, sometimes merely as a pile of paper stapled together. Or online, on the internet. Although reports are not scholarly publications, they can still contain important information which can be very useful for all kinds of research projects.
It is often hard to work out when these reports were published or whether they are still available. Libraries also collect reports, but this is often a haphazard undertaking. Usually reports are hard to find in bibliographic databases. That is why we tend to refer to reports and similar literature as 'grey' literature.
- If you only know the subject of the report, use an internet search engine such as Google.
- If you know which organization published the report (for example a specific government agency, charitable foundation or research institution) the website of the organization is the best place to start.
- File type filter – Search for terms that describe your subject, using the filter :/filetype: PDF (using the ‘advanced search’ screen). This will substantially reduce the number of results and limit them to the most important sources.
- Site filter – If you know which organization publishes the reports you need, you can also use the filter ‘site:’ in which you specify the domain name of the website (e.g. site:unep.org for the United Nations Environment Programme).
- Search terms indicating you are looking for reports – if you still have too many results, as a final option you can add search terms that occur in the text and/or title of many reports, such as report OR research OR investigation.