Overton Blog

Four things a research librarian should know about the Overton app

The Overton app has many functions across different industries in the research and policy sectors.  It's used widely within Higher Education, where it has applications in teaching, research, impact assessment and communications. In this blog we outline the key things a university librarian needs to know about the app.

1. The app is a powerful discovery tool for researchers interested in government policy and decision making

It’s like Google for government reports, white papers and other grey literature policy documents, except our sophisticated filters allow for a more refined and precise search process. You can structure and/or limit a search by topic, source type, document type and year, meaning that your results are highly targeted. Importantly, you can specify countries but also geographical regions. We collect data from cities, states, countries and IGOs, to get a mix of local, national and international policy

This highly focused filtering helps surface outputs from smaller organisations or geographical areas that are often deprioritised in a regular search process, which is important if trying to find resources from the Global South for example. Find out more about using Overton to decolonise your research methodologies in this blog.

2. Our citation reports and dashboards are specifically designed to help with research impact assessment

The database is a discovery tool, which is useful for students and faculty who are doing research into policy. However a big part of our mission is to help users measure their influence on decision making by tracking where research has been mentioned in policy. If you fund, publish or produce research, Overton can show you where it has been cited in policy worldwide. This can help individual researchers with promotions/tenure and grant applications and help research managers produce case studies to evidence real world impact. We also aim to help researchers and organisations improve their policy engagement - for example, our app allows policy units to spot emerging debates and issues that experts in the institution can help to shape.  

3. You can automate your searches to save time 

Within the app you can search for policy documents, research publications and also for individual researchers. You can easily jump between these three views. Once you’ve created and refined a search - filtering by institution, person, topics, source location etc - you can save this for future reference, or to share with other people. You can also set alerts within the app, so that you’re immediately notified by email when there are any new mentions of your organisation or researchers in policy. This way you never miss a citation, giving you unparalleled insight into how your institution is engaging with policymakers.

Your saved searches appear on your app dashboard, beneath the search bar. From here you can create or edit email alerts, so that when new documents come in that match them, you’ll be alerted automatically.

4. We’ll add new policy sources if you spot anything missing

We currently hold over 12 million full text policy documents and guidelines from 32,000 organisations in 188 countries in the app, and we’re committed to constantly updating and growing our database. We will add up to 7 sources within 7 days for you each year, so any new or missing policy producers will be incorporated quickly.

Our definition of a ‘policy document’ is fairly broad - we characterise them as documents written primarily for or by policymakers that are published by a policy focused source. This includes things like white papers, draft bills and transcripts from governments and parliaments but also things like policy briefs from think tanks and NGOs, working papers from central banks and even clinical guidelines from government health agencies. This means that we are open to adding many different types of sources - so do get in touch if you think your institution’s research is being referenced somewhere that we don’t capture!

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 31k 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.