Using Overton to discover inaccessible grey literature: Carlos Manuel Vílchez-Román 

User type: Researcher

Carlos Manuel Vílchez-Román is a full-time researcher at the Centre of Higher National Studies (Centro de Altos Estudios Nacionales or CAEN), Perú. His field of study is the communication of research and educational sciences.

His recent projects have explored the impact of research on wider society in the Global South. His work explores if, how and why scholarship influences policymakers, to understand whether the research produced in the area is providing genuine insights that are useful to society.

How he uses Overton: policy discovery and analysis

Carlos wanted to know why certain research findings from the Global South find their way into policy documents while others don’t. He’s particularly interested in the predictors influencing policymakers’ decisions to incorporate specific research results. His research involves analysing the citation context within policy documents, exploring the dynamics behind these citations, and deciphering patterns in research mentions. 

He uses Overton to find policy documents from the Global South that cite or mention research originating from the same region. 

I got interested in Overton because it lets you connect academia with the real world

Carlos’s work underlines how we can use data to bridge the gap between academic research and policy formulation, particularly in regions with limited representation in global discourse. With Overton, Carlos contributes valuable insights into the mechanisms driving research uptake in policy documents, and advocates for evidence-based policymaking tailored to the needs of the Global South.

Key features of Overton for Carlos


While he does utilise other data tools in his research, he stresses that this type of work would be impossible without Overton as its coverage is so much more extensive than other similar databases. 

The coverage is definitely higher than expected. I found many interesting documents from Peruvian think tanks and government offices

It’s often hard to find policy documents published in countries in the Global South, as they are poorly represented in other grey literature databases as well as being difficult to uncover using search engines. Overton’s breadth of sources from countries all over the world helps Carlos explore policy documents that would be otherwise inaccessible. Overton collects documents from sources at international, national and local levels – the latter of which was particularly helpful for Carlos.

Other sources are very limited in the information provided – they are very Global North oriented. If Overton didn’t exist, I couldn’t do this work

He also noted that users are encouraged to suggest new sources for Overton to incorporate, as this ensures that the database is always growing and responsive to the needs of the people using it. Having this breadth of data accessible in Overton allows researchers to find publications from a far wider range of sources, diversifying the views represented.


Carlos makes extensive use of Overton’s filtering options, to narrow down his dataset. He found it especially useful to be able to filter results by policy source region as well as policy source country – this nuance was important, as it allowed him to focus his analysis on specific policy contexts. Being able to uncover grey literature from a group of nations – for example the G7, South America, Africa and Europe – as opposed to from one single government is helpful, especially when there is a limited amount of policy available from a particular nation. Being able to expand the search to other similar countries helps enrich the analysis. 

Carlos also refined his results by topic, which he found to be extensive and detailed. Again, this helped him find pertinent documents more easily.

Data snapshot

For parts of his projects, Carlos benefited from receiving a data snapshot directly from Overton. This means that the team exported the relevant data on his behalf, without him needing to employ complex search strategies within the app. Exporting the data like this is useful if you need to analyse it in your own systems, as opposed to within the app – data snapshots give you access to the Overton database in machine-readable form so that you can import it into your own database or BI system.

Carlos’ research insights

So far, he’s used the platform as part of research and discovery in several academic papers, the latest of which looks at the impact of health research on policymaking in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Region. This piece was published in the Open Access journal AIMS Public Health. It explores the factors that influence whether research on health education or literacy is referenced or mentioned in policy documents in the LAC region and finds that timing, strength of evidence, and social media activity were significant predictors. He also found that policymakers in this area tend to rely more on qualitative evidence.

He used Web of Science and Scopus to find relevant research papers, using keywords and regional filters. Furthermore, he used Overton to search for these DOIs, to discover where they were cited or mentioned in policy produced in the area. After that, he studied the policy documents to understand more about the context of the citation and the factors influencing it.

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