Using Grey Literature in the Human Services
Perspectives of Australian Research End Users
Keywords:Grey literature, Social work research, Research engagement, Research impact
Human services workers need up-to-date, quality research to inform their work in practice, management, education, policy, and advocacy. While some research end users read peer-reviewed journal articles, many also rely on research-based grey literature in the form of print and online materials, which may not be subject to scholarly peer review. This may include commissioned research reports, conference papers, policy documents, and research summaries. The aim of this study was to understand how research end users accessed research knowledge and the benefits and challenges related to different knowledge sources, including grey literature. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 43 research end users in child protection, disability, and aged care services. Participants indicated that they used an array of grey literature for reasons such as difficulties accessing academic journals, wanting to read more digestible research, and to source lived experience or culturally appropriate knowledge. Grey literature provides a valuable source of research knowledge, but uncertainty about its quality means research end users should be mindful of its limitations. Producers of grey literature should ensure that it distils messages for policy, practice, and the delivery of human services based on sound research.
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