I'm writing a thesis on a financial topic and some important arguments for my research can only be found in reports from investment banks, not scholarly sources. I think it's because the topic is very new but right now I'm not sure how 'respected' a bank report reference is. I'm talking UBS, Citibank,... The topic concerns QE causing distortions in the stock market. Is it considered acceptable to use a bank report as a source in a thesis?

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    This seems like a question for an expert in your field, and would probably depend on what information you're using and in what context. For instance, if you want to discuss Citibank's profits in some year, a Citibank report would be an excellent source for that. – Nate Eldredge Nov 25 '13 at 0:21

Citing grey literature, such as investment bank reports, isn't unheard of.

There are a few caveats.

  • Discuss it with your supervisors early on: they will know the whens and hows of acceptable grey-literature citations.
  • It may not be easy to find useful citation metadata such as named authors.
  • Your reviewers / examiners may not be able to accesss the report, and that would be problematic for them, and thus for you.
  • You should not build arguments that are grounded only in grey literature. Corroborate with peer-reviewed literature wherever possible, even if it's just corroborating one aspect of the points you're taking from the grey literature.
  • Business reports often have some wacky form of encryption that hinders text searching, which can make including them in your literature review somewhat hazardous.

Using a bank report is acceptable unless it appears as though there is some bias present. QE and its impacts are a hot topic so you are likely to find it written quite heavily about in bank reports and the like. However, you must be on guard that what is being written is not really sales literature.

If the statements is "You would be reckless with your finances to ignore the impact of QE so come and let us make your money work for you!" then you might want to avoid it.

Just follow common sense about critical reading and how to evaluate your source reading material. If the source seems credible and the content seems unbiased then there should be no problem citing it.

As EnergyNumbers wrote, it is always better if others have access to the report but even if others do not, that should not stop you from including relevant information. Use the best source material you have, wherever you can find it.

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