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SOC 573: Demographic Techniques

Course guide to support SOC 573

Lesson Objectives

You will be introduced to a type of literature that is popularly called "gray literature" specifically focusing on reports published by research organizations and government entities. There are some important strategies for discovering these types of materials as well as some important shifts in publishing models you will need to consider. The goal is for you to be able to find 1 to 2 reports that you can use to inform and ground the writing of your Demographic Report and to include in your bibliography.  

Once you finished this lesson you will:

  1. Discover and download at least 3 reports on your topic for your Demographic Report.
  2. Define and identify gray literature and compare it to scholarly articles in order to differentiate between the defining characteristics of these two types of publications.
  3. Consider 3-5? search strategies/techniques for discovering gray literature on your topic for your Demographic Report and identify strategies that work for you.

Defining gray literature

In general, gray literature publications are non-conventional, fugitive, and sometimes ephemeral publications. They may include, but are not limited to the following types of materials:

  • pre-prints,
  • preliminary progress and advanced reports,
  • technical reports,
  • statistical reports,
  • memoranda,
  • state-of-the art reports,
  • market research reports, etc.,
  • theses,
  • conference proceedings,
  • technical specifications and standards,
  • non-commercial translations,
  • bibliographies,
  • technical and commercial documentation,
  • and official documents not published commercially (primarily government reports and documents) (Alberani, 1990).

Alberani V, Pietrangeli PDC, Mazza AMR (1990). The use of grey literature in health sciences: a preliminary survey. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 78(4): 358-363.

How do scholarly articles differ from "gray literature"?  

  • Typically published much faster then scholarly articles
  • Has no formal peer-reviewed process
  • Doesn't usually have a comprehensive literature review
  • Often the "official author" is an agency or organization rather then an individual

Non-Government Organizations

Foreign Government Reports

General Tip: International government agencies typically publish reports on topics at the country level or for comparison between countries and regions of the world. You will most likely not find reports on your topic at a sub-national level such as counties or individual states from international government organization (IGO) information resources.  

United States & State Government Reports

Search Tip Reminders

Gray literature is one of the most difficult formats to systematically and comprehensively search. In part, this is because there is no single resource that allows you to find all the Gray Literature on a specific topic. The best discovery method for this type of literature is to focus on a specific type.  Below are some tips to keep in mind as you use these resources:

Tip One: Keep track of the name of the government agency or research organization.

Generally speaking, it is important to keep track of the names of the organizations as well as the government agencies that you come across as you explore the resources for your topic. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau publishes many of the important demographic reports for the United States as a priority, but more importantly as a legal obligation. Consequently, if you discover an older report on your topic there may be a newer version mounted on their website.

In sum, follow the lead.

Tip Two: Look closely at the source in the statistical tables 

Often when you discover a statistical table on your topic, it will cite a source or possibly a report that the table was taken from. Simply do a Google search for the title of the source even if it is dated. There may be a more current report.  

Tip Three: Search the correct level of government     

There are numerous levels of government that can potentially address your topic. Each with its own legal mandates, geographic limitations and purpose. For example: 

  • International agencies (i.e United Nations, OECD, World Bank, etc.)
  • National government agencies (Statistics Canada, US Cesnus Bureau, etc.)
  • State Agencies
  • Regional government
  • County governments
  • Urban planners (typically multiple counties)
  • City government

If you are trying to find reports about cities and places, don't start with resources that help you find reports from international agencies. Even though you may find some reports for very large cities like London, Paris, or Berlin, moving down the food chain may produce better results. Keep in mind however, that you may encounter some language barriers for countries whose national language you don't know.  

Citing Technical and Research Reports

Format references to technical and research reports as you would a book.

Author, G.G. (2007). Title of the the publications (Report No. ***). Location: Publisher

  • If the issuing agency or organization assigns a number to the report, then give that number in parentheses following the title.
  • If you get a report from the U.S. Government Printing Office, list the publisher location and name as:
    •  Washington, DC: Government Printing Office
  • For reports retrieved online, identify the publisher as part of the retrieval statement unless the publisher has been identified as the author: 
    • Retrieved from Agency name website: http://www.xxxxxxx

Corporate author, government report

U.S. Bureau of Census.  (2017). Monthly and Average Monthly Poverty Rates by Selected Demographic Characteristics: 2013 (Current Population Reports. Series P-70:143 Household Economic Studies).  Washington, DC: Government Publishing Office.

Corporate author, task force report filed online

U.S. Conference of Mayors, Conference of Mayors' Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness.(2015). Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities: A 22-City Survey, Dec. 2015.  Retrieved from

Authored report, from nongovernmental organization

Van de Water, P., & and Arloc Sherman, A. (2013) Social Security Keeps 21 Million Americans Out of Poverty: A State-by-State Analysis (Report Oct. 16, 2012). Retrieved from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website:

Report from institutional archive

Vandell, D., & Wolfe, B. (2000). Child Care Quality: Does It Matter and Does It Need to Be Improved? (Special Report no. 78). Retrieved from University of Wisconsin, Institute for Research on Poverty website:

Issue brief

Economic Policy Institute. (2015, November). Child care workers aren't paid enough to make ends meet (Issue Brief 405). Washington, DC: Author.

Tips for citing reports from Statistical Insight

Use these fields from Statistical Insight  [Bib Data & Title Info]:


Bureau of Census.  (2017). Monthly and Average Monthly Poverty Rates by Selected Demographic Characteristics: 2013 (Current Population Reports. Series P-70: Household Economic Studies, 2017 ASI 2546-20.143).  Retrieved from 

Note: some of the information above particularly headings were from the 6th Edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.