Overton Blog

Enrich your research methods: Using Overton to search for grey literature

Ellie Downes introduces our new guide 'How to use Overton to decolonise your research and teaching', which sets out how incorporating policy grey literature can improve your research methods and teaching materials, by removing bias and helping to unearth different views and voices. 

'Grey literature' is the vast body of documents and materials produced by organisations outside of the traditional commercial or academic publishing channels. These materials are often produced by government agencies, academic institutions, non-profit organisations, and industry groups, among others. It's a useful tool for researchers because it can provide valuable insights, data and perspectives that may not be available through traditional scholarly publications. 

Overton's definition of policy is 'any document made by or for policymakers'. This of course includes publications from governments and official bodies, but also materials from IGOs, think tanks and NGOs. As such, we collect a huge amount of what is termed 'grey literature'. 

Historically, it's been tricky to find grey literature. It's published in a variety of different ways and isn't optimised to be found using search engines. But, our goal at Overton is to make this resource more visible and accessible. By collecting these documents into one place and tagging their metadata so that they can be discovered easily using search terms, we hope to encourage widespread use.

In this guide we set out the reasons why you should incorporate grey literature in research and teaching. We unpick why it’s so valuable in introducing alternative voices - especially those from underrepresented communities - and show you how the Overton platform can be used most effectively to surface these outputs, as well as the contexts in which it might be useful.  Read the guide and find out how incorporating grey literature helps remove bias and produce more relevant, impactful work.

We hope that this is a useful resource for those hoping to enrich their research methods, while also contributing to the process of decolonising higher education!


Ellie is a Product Support Specialist in our Engagement and Training Team. Before Overton she worked as a university research librarian and is experienced at providing support and training to researchers.

Useful resources on Decolonising Research Methods, and Literature searching can be found here; NIHR Policy Research Unit, King’s College London, and the Library Guide of Lancaster University


What is Overton

We help universities, think tanks and publishers understand the reach and influence of their research.

The Overton platform contains is the world’s largest searchable policy database, with over 12 million documents from 32k organisations.

We track everything from white papers to think tank policy briefs to national clinical guidelines, and automatically find the references to scholarly research, academics and other outputs.