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Before you begin any work on the assignment, it is vital that you ensure that you know what the question is asking of you. This will enable you to structure your approach and write appropriately for a higher education audience. Look for key terms that can act as pointers to what is expected of you. For example, if you have been asked to compare Boyd and Fales and Atkins and Murphy models of self-reflection, it is required that you highlight the similarities and differences between the two models. If you have been asked to evaluate the models then dissemination of their strong and weak points are required. Generally, the goal of a nursing essay is to demonstrate how your theoretical learning will inform your practice, so make sure you provide concrete examples when required.
The nursing essay is ultimately an opportunity for you to demonstrate what you know on the given subject. In order to demonstrate the understanding required at higher education level, it is essential that you read widely around the topic area. While textbooks act as a useful guide to a specific topic, they are limited in providing a detailed, up-to-date picture of the topic in question. Reading journal articles is an essential way of gaining an understanding of the present state of knowledge on a research topic. Furthermore, the ability to provide a direct critique of research findings is the key to demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the subject area. You can find relevant journal articles by using online databases such as MEDLINE, for a list of internet sources that are informative for writing a nursing essay see Winship and McNab (2000).
Every single nursing essay you write should be composed of three basic structural elements. Firstly, the Introduction should demonstrate how you plan to answer the question, and then the Main Body of the essay should follow the plan as set out in the introduction. The Main Body of the essay should be composed of arguments that follow a logical progression, with each paragraph linking naturally to the next. Finally, the conclusion will sum up your findings. Remember that each argument should directly answer the question. Continually refer to how the evidence you provide answers the essay question throughout the whole of your essay.
Hatchett (2006) highlights the importance of time management skills when preparing your nursing essays. It is vital that the time is taken to prepare the essay so that the arguments presented are clearly structured. Also, taking time to prepare your essay will provide time for you to think over your reading and will provide space for you to be original in your approach.
Having taken time to prepare your arguments, you will need to see if they follow a coherent structure. The most effective way of doing this is to prepare a first draft that can be read over and amended. Printing out your essay so you can go through it and make amendments with a pen, leaving a period of a week between redrafts, and giving it to friends to read are all excellent methods for ensuring that your arguments are clearly structured and that the progression makes logical sense.
Once the final draft has been completed it is important to ensure that the nursing essay meets the departmental formatting requirements. This will usually entail that the font is Times New Roman size 12, using 1.5 line or double line spacing. Margins should generally be no more than 2cm. Also, make sure that the spelling and the grammar are correct. If either of these is incorrect then your essay will look unprofessional. A good tip is to remember that your lecturer has lots of essays to mark and wants to give you marks. Don’t make this harder by not meeting basic format requirements and giving a bad impression at the outset.
It cannot be stressed how important it is that your nursing essay is correctly referenced. You must cite all sources that you have used to make your arguments. Failure to do so will result in the impression that you are passing off other peoples’ arguments as your own, which is considered plagiarism, and will result in an automatic fail.
When citing in the text then use brackets around the date of publication and where appropriate around the Author’s name. So for example, I could refer in the text to Erikson, Tomlin and Swain’s (2005) theory of modeling and role modeling, or I could refer to the theory of modeling and role modeling (Erikson, Tomlin & Swain, 2005).
If quoting directly from a source, put quotation marks around the excerpt, with the name of the author, the date of publication and the page number in brackets afterwards, e.g. ‘As a nurse, it is important to understand, and to be able to meet, the informational needs of patients and their family caregivers’ (Symons, 2008, pp. 1160).
Each citation you use must have a corresponding entry in your reference section at the end of the essay. See below for how to reference from different source types:
Carpenito-Moyet, L.J. (2002). Nursing Diagnosis: Applications to Clinical Practice.
Chapter of a book edited by someone other than the author of the chapter:
Wald, L. (1995). What’s it all about Florence? In S.H. Fondiller, & B.J. Nerone (eds). Nursing: The Career of a Lifetime. Michigan: National League for Nursing Press, pp. 7-28.
Dicenso, A., Cullum, N., & Ciliska, D. (1998). Implementing evidence-based Nursing: Some misconceptions. Evidence-Based Nursing, 1, 38-39.
Online Journal Article:
Donley, R., & Flaherty, M.J. (2008). Promoting Professional Development: Three Phases of Articulation in Nursing Education and Practice. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 3, Available online: http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/vol132008/No3Sept08.aspx. Retrieved October 19th, 2008.