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7 Writing Tips for Nursing Students

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Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Nurse Case Manager, Professor, Freelance Writer.

11 Followers; 123 Articles; 26,492 Profile Views; 286 Posts

How can I finish my writing assignment?

Nursing school is full of dosage calculations, clinicals, and writing assignments. If writing is not one of your strengths, you might be looking for a few tips.

7 Writing Tips for Nursing Students
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Nursing school is full of dosage calculations, clinicals, and writing assignments. You were probably prepared for the first two, but writing might not be your strong suit. If your palms get sweaty when you hear things like term papers, capstones, or dissertations, no worries! This list of 7 writing tips will have you succeeding on those dreaded assignments in no time - here's how.

Understand the Goal of the Assignment

When you're preparing for a written assignment, be sure you understand all the details. There is nothing worse than pouring your heart into an assignment to be later told that you missed the purpose and won't receive full credit. According to Walden University, there are five common goals of nurse assignments:

  • Demonstrating critical thinking skills
  • Documenting your knowledge
  • Expressing ideas or opinions
  • Showing your understanding of nursing literature
  • Demonstrating your understanding of activities

Know Your Audience

Writing requires you to know and understand your target audience. In school, you're writing for your professor with the express intent of demonstrating your knowledge about a subject. But, don't be mistaken - even though you are writing for your professor - be sure to express your thoughts openly and don't assume they fully understand the subject.

Here are a few things you need to know about the professor's expectations before you begin your assignment:

  • Should you write in first, second, or third person?
  • Do they have a sample of a paper or writing style they prefer?
  • What style of citations do they prefer?
  • Is there a preferred format for papers?
  • If you have multiple audiences, how do you meet the needs of everyone?

Do Your Research

Research in nursing school is essential to your success. You will need to become very familiar with the online library and how to perform a search for topics. Many of the library systems have multiple ways to search for articles, save them for later reference, download and print them. When you search for nursing research, be sure the information is:

  • Current - You professor might provide guidance on this, but if not, always try to find research no more than 10 years old and preferably within 5 years.
  • Credible - Credibility is essential in nursing research. Be sure to know the author, journal, and publisher. Always steer clear of websites like Wikipedia, blogs, and magazines for academic papers. If you want to search the web for articles, try Google Scholar for academic sources.
  • Peer-Reviewed - Nursing is founded on evidence-based research, which means that finding articles that have been peer-reviewed is critical. If you haven't heard of this term before, it means that the item has been reviewed by a board of experts on the subject matter. Peer-reviewed articles are considered to be a high quality of research and adhere to strict editorial standards.

Execute a Brain Dump

There's nothing scarier than a blank page, especially, when you know that you need 10-15 pages filled with stellar content in a short amount of time. But, as scary as it might be to get started, that is precisely what you need to do.

As someone who writes often, I have learned that you must do a draft to "get the garbage out," as I say. Once you get all of the garbage out and onto a document, cleaning it up and adding to it is easier than creating those first few sentences.

Keep the Fluff to a Minimum

Nursing school assignments are not like writing poetry. You want to be very clear in your writing. There is no need for a lot of descriptions and flowery wording. Do your research and be sure you understand the material thoroughly. Write using clear language. Once you're finished with your paper, read it aloud, which will help you to identify areas of flowery wording that isn't necessary for nursing school.

If you need extra help, find a classmate who is good at writing and have them read over your work. Another option is to use an online editor such as Grammarly or Hemingway. These tools are not perfect, but they can help find common errors and offer solutions.

Avoid Passive Voice

This takes practice. If you struggle with passive voice, just know that most writers struggle too. Limiting passive voice is very important to academic writing. It's a simple guide to keeping your language simple and easy to understand.

So what is passive voice? According to the Writing Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, passive voice is when you make the object of an action into the subject of the sentence. For example:

Active Voice: The chicken crossed the road.

Passive Voice: The road was crossed by the chicken.

When you write in active voice, the ideas you are expressing are clear and easy to understand. In passive voice, it might be a bit more challenging to understand the meaning.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you're struggling with assignments and your papers are coming back with lower scores than what you want, try practicing. Now, this might not sound like much fun, but you don't have to do extra term papers. Try writing a journal or start a blog about nursing school. The more you write, the easier it will become.

If you need a bit more discipline to get this practice, take a writing class. It might not be required, but it will help you throughout your college and professional career.

Do you have other writing tips for nursing students? Are you a student and have found something else that seems to be helping? Let us know your thoughts.

Melissa is a Quality Assurance Nurse, professor, writer, and business owner. You can read her blog and other writing samples by visiting www.melissamills.net.

11 Followers; 123 Articles; 26,492 Profile Views; 286 Posts

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Rainbow_RN is a ADN, RN and specializes in Orthopedics.

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I'm just starting my online RN to BSN program and I found this super helpful! Thank you for sharing. Nursing papers are a bit different than those I have written in the past, and my professor's expectations line up with your post. No passive voice, concise and to the point, with recent sources from the last 10 years or so are clearly stated in the rubric. I previously thought of myself as a "good" writer, but changing my style for this program could have really thrown me for a loop if I'd let it!

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Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Nurse Case Manager, Professor, Freelance Writer.

11 Followers; 123 Articles; 286 Posts; 26,492 Profile Views

Hi masonicus! I am so glad you found this to be helpful. Yes, academic writing is totally different and can be difficult for even the best of writers. Best of luck to you on your journey - I'm sure you'll CRUSH it!


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djh123 has 5 years experience and specializes in LTC, Rehab.

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Here's some other writing tips that will put you ahead of - I don't want to guess what percentage, but I'd say a large percent - of other people out there. Learn these basic things that somehow either aren't being taught or aren't being remembered:

your vs you're - your is belonging to someone or something, like your dog, your house, your friend. 'you're' is a contraction - that means you're shortening two words into one - you're shortening 'you are' into 'you're'. Example 'you're going to pick up dinner tonight, right?'.

it's vs its - its is a belonging to of sorts too, like 'the dog was chasing its own tail', or 'the car broke down due to a failure in its electrical system'. Once again, it's is a contraction - a shortening of 'it is'. Example 'It's going to be a hot day today'.

And since I mentioned 'too' above - I see people constantly typing 'to' when they mean 'too'. 'To' is what I call a 'connector' (I'm not an English teacher). Use it like "I'm going to the park", "We're going to a movie". 'Too' is a comparison - it's too hot, that's too bag, it's too far.

They're/their/there - they're is a contraction of 'they are' - 'they're going to California next week'. Their is an ownership type of thing - Their house is for sale. Their dog is sick. There is usually used instead of a place. "Yeah, he went there last month". Then again, it's been used as a consoling word - "There, there, you'll get over it".

Commas - I don't want to give a ton of examples, and what I'm about to say doesn't *always* fit or work, but generally it does. A lot of people seem to 'salt and pepper' a sentence or paragraph with commas, or at the other extreme, type long run-on sentences with few commas at all. Generally speaking, use them like this: if you were saying whatever you're writing out loud, and you'd pause just a little bit, put a comma there.

Oh, and 'supposably'? That's not a word, yet I hear people say it all the time. It's supposEDLY. And 'I could care less', as has been covered in this forum, should be 'I couldn't care less', because you're really trying to tell us that you don't care at all about whatever it is.

I could go on - but if you get the above nailed down, you'll be ahead of a lot of people and their writing.

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Thank you very much for such a brilliant article. I used a lot of your tips in my last paper and waiting for the highest mark. It was truly unexpected to discover some useful tools for checking my paper and I appreciate your writing style: sharp, concrete and easy to understand.

Also, I want to emphasize the crucial role of the outline before you start writing. Despite the fact that I am not so good at writing, I always try to structure the whole bunch of thoughts in a brief "demo-version" of the essay. Thus, I distinguish the main idea with one sentence surrounded by keywords. After it, I write everything that I want to include near the core but without any order. In 15 minutes I am coming back to the essay and connect keywords with other ideas making an array to work with. I believe that nursing papers demand the strict structure in a way of supporting every point with a clear argument. It will help to highlight the central concept of the paper and express your thoughts easily.

Speaking about the process of writing, I suggest to switch off all your devices, find the suitable area and put all your energy into the story. I discovered a fascinating method to avoid distractions by listening to the sound of rain.

All in all, thank you one more time for this great article and tips which I, for sure, will use in the future.

Edited by Silverdragon102
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