Skip to Main Content

Grey Literature in Multicultural Women's & Gender Studies (MWGS) Research

This guide will help provide information about grey literature and resources to find grey literature that can be helpful in MWGS research.

Colors of Research and Papers

The rainbow of colors in research and documents

Oftentimes colors are used to represent different types of research materials. Although some of the terms arise from unpleasant beginnings, it is important to understand what the colors represent in different geographical locations and settings. The following are a list of colors used to describe types of papers or research materials:

White Paper:

According to Purdue University, a "the term white paper was used as shorthand to refer to an official government report, indicating that the document is authoritative and informative in nature." They go on to say, " Today, white papers have become popular marketing tools for corporations especially on the Internet since many potential customers search for information on the Web." White Paper: Purpose and Audience by OWL Purdue and Purdue University

The University of Massachusetts Lowell Library says, "A white paper is a research-based report which offers a focused description of a complex topic and presents the point of view of the author or body represented by the author." They also state, "The purpose of a white paper is to give readers understanding of an issue, which in turn helps them solve a problem or make a decision" and that, "In a business context, the purpose of white papers has evolved to an aspect of marketing and is often used to persuade." White Paper Style Guide by University of Massachusetts Lowell Library

Black Literature:

Dalhousie University says, "Academics and researchers tend to put most trust in information that has gone through the peer-review process. This kind of literature is often referred to as "black literature." What is Grey Literature? by Dalhousie University Libraries

Western University in Canada makes reference to "black and white literature" as "literature that you get when searching most databases is produced by commercial publishers." Grey Literature by Western Libraries

Along this same thought process, Duquesne University infers that black and white literature is," literature provided in scholarly publications... " Why Use Grey Literature by Duquesne University

Blue book:

The ACES: The Society for Editing, compares white paper and blue books, "White paper, usually capitalized, is more commonly used in Great Britain. The term probably came about to distinguish a report from a blue book. A blue book is a bound collection of official documents. While a blue book may contain a range of information, a white paper is narrowly focused." They explain that a, "Blue book may have originated with the name of the second volume, produced in the 16th century, of a series of handwritten records of the Order of the Garter. That book was bound in blue velvet."  'White Paper contrasts with 'Blue Books,' other shades by Mark Allen, ACES News

Merriam-Webster describes blue book as: a register especially of socially prominent persons, a book of specialized information often published under government auspices, a blue-covered booklet used for writing examinations, and a periodically issued price list (as of used cars). Blue Book definition by Merriam-Webster Online DIctionary

Green paper:

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia,

"A green paper is a statement by the government, not of policy already determined, but of proposals put before the nation for discussion. Like a white paper, a green paper is an official document sponsored by the Crown. (Traditionally, green papers were printed on green paper to distinguish them from white papers.) A green paper is produced early in the policy-making process, when ministers are still formulating their proposals. Many white papers in Canada have been, in effect, green papers. And at least one green paper — the 1975 Green Paper on Immigration and Population — was released for public debate after the government had already drafted legislation."  Green Paper by The Canadian Encyclopedia

According to the UK Parliament: 

"Green Papers are consultation documents produced by the Government. The aim of this document is to allow people both inside and outside Parliament to  give the department feedback on its policy or legislative proposals.

Copies of consultation documents such as Green Papers are available on the related departmental websites."  Green Papers by the UK Parliament

The Red Paper:

This paper, also called the Citizens Plus, was written in response to Canada's 1969 White Paper. "The Red Paper held strongly against assimilation and argued that Indian people had signed the historical treaties with the Crown as equals, that the treaties were sacred and that promises made in the treaties were everlasting. The Red Paper also presented a prescription for self-government and self-sufficiency through economic development and education." The Red Paper: A Counterpunch to the White Paper

The 1969 White Paper:

"The 1969 White Paper (formally known as the “Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969”) was a Canadian government policy paper that attempted to abolish previous legal documents relating to Indigenous Peoples in Canada, including the Indian Act and treaties." The White Paper, 1969-The Canadian Encyclopedia

More information here: White Paper, Red Paper-Facing History & Ourselves and hereThe White Paper 1969- Indigenous Foundations

Yellow Papers:

Although yellow papers are sometimes associated with yellow journalism which has a different meaning,  yellow papers, are defined by the Quadrans Foundation as a means to, "...provide in-depth technical details, often supported by mathematical models and formulas, to help developers and experts better understand the concepts and implementations behind a design or technology. They are usually aimed at a community of experts and those who wish to learn more about a particular technical topic." A Deep Dive into Yellow Papers


The Implications of Papers and their Colors:

It's Time to Retire 'White Paper' by Jennifer Jakobi & the NSERC Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering

White Box Warning: Language matters in overcoming bias in healthcare by Yalda Jabbarpour & John M. Westfall

White Papers vs Black Papers, What is Really Implied? by Benita L. Harris