How to Write a Nursing Essay or Dissertation

Features of a Nursing essay

Often nursing essays will take a particular illness, intervention, or case study of a patient, and examine these in specific detail. It is an opportunity to examine how the theory that is learned within the lecture-based side of your studies can interact with the practice-based aspect of real-life nursing. Within these essays then are typically chances to unpack not just the causes behind certain conditions, or evidence behind ways of treating them; you will typically also be required to examine clinical guidelines, professional roles, and the interaction between physical and mental health and wellbeing. No matter how ‘small’ the topic, you can be sure that a nursing essay will need to incorporate a wide range of evidence and viewpoints.


Features of a Nursing dissertation

Nursing dissertations tend to cover significant areas of importance, and examine them in great depth. Typically nursing dissertations will take two forms. The first is that of a systematic literature review, in which you will choose a topic - such as a specific clinical intervention for example - and examine and appraise the evidence behind this using core critical appraisal skills. The second form of dissertation is the service improvement proposal, in which you will identify an area of clinical practice that can be improved and develop a plan to make these improvements and subsequently test their impact. Both forms of dissertation require reading a large volume of literature and applying a critique to differing forms of evidence.


How Nursing writing differs from other subjects

Nursing is a subject that is distinct from a lot of others, in that there is almost always a requirement to not only examine theoretical work, but to also examine how guidelines, clinical experiences, and patient preferences all combine to form a path of treatment; in other words it is always more than purely a theoretical essay. Sometimes to you will be called upon to reflect upon your own personal experiences, examining and critiquing your responses and planning for how you may respond in the future. This constant juggling of different perspectives is one of the most challenging areas of writing nursing essays or dissertations, but also allows you to develop your knowledge across a wide range of areas, and apply in it many different ways.


How to reference: Most common referencing systems for nursing papers

There are two common referencing systems for those studying nursing. These are the Harvard referencing system and that of the American Psychiatric Association - known as APA referencing. Essentially, for both styles of referencing, when you make a statement taken from someone’s previous work, you’ll cite their name, and the date the work was published in brackets. At the end of your work, the reference list will outline the title of this work, and where it was published. The key differences between Harvard and APA styles of referencing lie in the offering ways of citing papers written by multiple authors, and the ways in which reference lists at the end of you work are formatted.


Things to remember in writing a Nursing essay or dissertation

As well as combining theory, practice, guidelines, and reflections, which are all key parts of nursing essays and dissertations, one of the most important things to remember is that health is not an isolated factor. By this, think about how biological, behavioural and social factors may all impact on the development of an illness, or on the success of a specific treatment. Think too about how physical ill health impacts upon an individual’s mental health, and how mental health can impact upon our physical wellbeing. These crossover factors are the sort of knowledge that markers will want to see demonstrated, and will often prove to be the difference between good, and very good grades.