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Information literacy: I want to find a report

Reports

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.

How to search for reports

- 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, the website of the organization is the best place to start.

You can also search in SmartCat. Many important reports are ‘officially’ published and included in catalogues. 

The GLIN (Grey literature in the Netherlands) database contains the titles of all publications by governing bodies, academic institutions and comparable organizations published in the Netherlands.

Searching for reports with Google (Scholar)

Many organizations publish their reports on their websites. The reports are freely accessible and can be found using important search engines such as Google and Google Scholar.

- 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.