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What is grey literature?

Grey literature refers to informally published documents produced by organizations like government departments, professional associations, and non-profits in the course of conducting their business. Unlike your textbook or scholarly journal articles which are professionally published and made widely available, grey literature may only be available from an organization's website. For example, most of the policies and procedures that will guide your working life would be considered grey literature.

Examples of grey literature in nursing include:

  • Nursing professional association documents including codes of ethics and practice standards
  • Policies and procedures from your employer e.g. AHS
  • Government websites and publications including those from Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Clinical practice guidelines that have not been published in scholarly journals 
  • Statistics (e.g. data and reports from Statistics Canada)
  • Reports produced by charities or other non-profit organizations
  • Masters Theses and PhD dissertations
  • Conference papers and presentations

Finding grey literature

There isn't a single tool that will find all available grey literature sources. Often, a targeted Google Search is the most effective way to find these types of resources. You can also do a deep dive into the websites of relevant organizations.

Google Search Tip - Limiting to Canadian federal government websites

All Canadian governmental websites end with The following Google Search limits your results to web addresses with this ending

social determinants of health

Other endings that might be useful for a site: search

site:gov will find American governmental pages

site:edu will find American college and university websites

Google Search Tip - Searching within a particular organization's website

You can also use site: to do a deep dive of a particular website. For example, this search is looking for documents about harm reduction on the Canadian Nurses Association website. Place the homepage address after site:

harm reduction

Finding clinical practice guidelines

Check out the 6S pyramid page for advice on finding clinical practice guidelines

Finding theses and dissertations

You can search for theses and dissertations from institutions around the world using the Dissertations and Theses Global database.

Examples of Potential Sources for Grey Literature in Nursing


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Cari Merkley

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