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OASIS: Writing Center

Common assignments: writing in nursing.

Although there may be some differences in writing expectations between disciplines, all writers of scholarly work are required to follow basic writing standards such as writing clear, concise, and grammatically correct sentences; using proper punctuation; demonstrating critical thought; and, in all Walden programs, using APA style. When writing in nursing, however, students must also be familiar with the goals of the discipline and discipline-specific writing expectations.

Nurses are primarily concerned about providing quality care to patients and their families, and this demands both technical knowledge and the appropriate expression of ideas (“Writing in nursing,” n.d). As a result, nursing students are expected to learn how to present information succinctly, and even though they may often use technical medical terminology (“Writing in nursing,” n.d.), their work should be accessible to anyone who may read it. Among many goals, writers within this discipline are required to:

  • Document knowledge/research
  • Demonstrate critical thinking
  • Express creative ideas
  • Explore nursing literature
  • Demonstrate understanding of learning activities. (Wagner, n.d., para. 2)

Given this broad set of objectives, nursing students would benefit from learning how to write diverse literature, including scholarly reports, reviews, articles, and so on. They should aim to write work that can be used in both the research and clinical aspects of the discipline. Walden instructors often ask nursing students to write position and reflective papers, critique articles, gather and analyze data, respond to case studies, and work collaboratively on a project. Although there may be differences between the writing expectations within the classroom and those in the workplace, the standards noted below, though more common in scholarly writing, require skills that are transferrable to the work setting.

Because one cannot say everything there is to say about a particular subject, writers present their work from a particular perspective. For instance, one might choose to examine the shortage of nurses from a public policy perspective. One’s particular contribution, position, argument, or viewpoint is commonly referred to as the thesis and, according to Gerring et al. (2004), a good thesis is one that is “new, true, and significant” (p. 2). To strengthen a thesis, one might consider presenting an argument that goes against what is currently accepted within the field while carefully addressing counterarguments and adequately explaining why the issue under consideration matters (Gerring et al., 2004). The thesis is particularly important because readers want to know whether the writer has something new or worthwhile to say about the topic. Thus, as you review the literature, before writing, it is important to find gaps and creative linkages between viewpoints with the goal of contributing innovative ideas to an ongoing discussion. For a contribution to be worthwhile you must read the literature carefully and without bias; doing this will enable you to identify some of the subtle differences in the viewpoints presented by different authors and help you to better identify the gaps in the literature. Because the thesis is essentially the heart of your discussion, it is important that it is argued objectively and persuasively.

With the goal of providing high quality care, the healthcare industry places a premium on rigorous research as the foundation for evidence-based practices. Thus, students are expected to keep up with the most current research in their field and support the assertions they make in their work with evidence from the literature. Nursing students also must learn how to evaluate evidence in nursing literature and identify the studies that answer specific clinical questions (Oermann & Hays, 2011). Writers are also expected to critically analyze and evaluate studies and assess whether findings can be used in clinical practice (Beyea & Slattery, 2006). (Some useful and credible sources include journal articles, other peer-reviewed sources, and authoritative sources that might be found on the web. If you need help finding credible sources contact a librarian.)

Like other APA style papers, research papers in nursing should follow the following format: title, abstract, introduction, literature review, method, results, discussion, references, and appendices (see APA 7, Sections 2.16-2.25). Note that the presentation follows a certain logic: In the introduction one presents the issue under consideration; in the literature review, one presents what is already known about the topic (thus providing a context for the discussion), identifies gaps, and presents one’s approach; in the methods section, one would then identify the method used to gather data; and in the results and discussion sections, one then presents and explains the results in an objective manner, noting the limitations of the study (Dartmouth Writing Program, 2005). Note that not all papers need to be written in this manner; for guidance on the formatting of a basic course paper, see the appropriate template on our website.

In their research, nursing researchers use quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods. In quantitative studies, researchers rely primarily on quantifiable data; in qualitative studies, they use data from interviews or other types of narrative analyses; and in mixed methods studies, they use both qualitative and quantitative approaches. A researcher should be able to pose a researchable question and identify an appropriate research method. Whatever method the researcher chooses, the research must be carried out in an objective and scientific manner, free from bias. Keep in mind that your method will have an impact on the credibility of your work, so it is important that your methods are rigorous. Walden offers a series of research methods courses to help students become familiar with the various research methods.

Instructors expect students to master the content of the discipline and use discipline- appropriate language in their writing. In practice, nurses may be required to become familiar with standardized nursing language as it has been found to lead to the following:

  • better communication among nurses and other health care providers,
  • increased visibility of nursing interventions,
  • improved patient care,
  • enhanced data collection to evaluate nursing care outcomes,
  • greater adherence to standards of care, and
  • facilitated assessment of nursing competency. (Rutherford, 2008)

Like successful writers in other disciplines and in preparation for diverse roles within their fields, in their writing nursing students should demonstrate that they (a) have cultivated the thinking skills that are useful in their discipline, (b) are able to communicate professionally, and (c) can incorporate the language of the field in their work appropriately (Colorado State University, 2011).

If you have content-specific questions, be sure to ask your instructor. The Writing Center is available to help you present your ideas as effectively as possible.

Beyea, S. C., & Slattery, M. J. (2006). Evidence-based practice in nursing: A guide to successful implementation . http://www.hcmarketplace.com/supplemental/3737_browse.pdf

Colorado State University. (2011). Why assign WID tasks? http://wac.colostate.edu/intro/com6a1.cfm

Dartmouth Writing Program. (2005). Writing in the social sciences . http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/soc_sciences/write.shtml

Rutherford, M. (2008). Standardized nursing language: What does it mean for nursing practice? [Abstract]. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing , 13 (1). http://ojin.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ThePracticeofProfessionalNursing/Health-IT/StandardizedNursingLanguage.html

Wagner, D. (n.d.). Why writing matters in nursing . https://www.svsu.edu/nursing/programs/bsn/programrequirements/whywritingmatters/

Writing in nursing: Examples. (n.d.). http://www.technorhetoric.net/7.2/sectionone/inman/examples.html

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Nursing: How to Write a Literature Review

  • Traditional or Narrative Literature Review

Getting started

1. start with your research question, 2. search the literature, 3. read & evaluate, 4. finalize results, 5. write & revise, brainfuse online tutoring and writing review.


The best way to approach your literature review is to break it down into steps.  Remember, research is an iterative process, not a linear one.  You will revisit steps and revise along the way.  Get started with the handout, information, and tips from various university Writing Centers below that provides an excellent overview.  Then move on to the specific steps recommended on this page.

  • UNC- Chapel Hill Writing Center Literature Review Handout, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center Learn how to write a review of literature, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • University of Toronto-- Writing Advice The Literature Review: A few tips on conducting it, from the University of Toronto.
  • Begin with a topic.
  • Understand the topic. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the terminology.  Note what words are being used and keep track of these for use as database search keywords. 
  • See what research has been done on this topic before you commit to the topic.  Review articles can be helpful to understand what research has been done .
  • Develop your research question.  (see handout below)
  • How comprehensive should it be? 
  • Is it for a course assignment or a dissertation? 
  • How many years should it cover?
  • Developing a good nursing research question Handout. Reviews PICO method and provides search tips.

Your next step is to construct a search strategy and then locate & retrieve articles.

  •  There are often 2-4 key concepts in a research question.
  • Search for primary sources (original research articles.)
  • These are based on the key concepts in your research question.
  • Remember to consider synonyms and related terms.
  • Which databases to search?
  • What limiters should be applied (peer-reviewed, publication date, geographic location, etc.)?

Review articles (secondary sources)

Use to identify literature on your topic, the way you would use a bibliography.  Then locate and retrieve the original studies discussed in the review article. Review articles are considered secondary sources.

  • Once you have some relevant articles, review reference lists to see if there are any useful articles.
  • Which articles were written later and have cited some of your useful articles?  Are these, in turn, articles that will be useful to you? 
  • Keep track of what terms you used and what databases you searched. 
  • Use database tools such as save search history in EBSCO to help.
  • Keep track of the citations for the articles you will be using in your literature review. 
  • Use RefWorks or another method of tracking this information. 
  • Database Search Strategy Worksheet Handout. How to construct a search.
  • TUTORIAL: How to do a search based on your research question This is a self-paced, interactive tutorial that reviews how to construct and perform a database search in CINAHL.

The next step is to read, review, and understand the articles.

  • Start by reviewing abstracts. 
  • Make sure you are selecting primary sources (original research articles).
  • Note any keywords authors report using when searching for prior studies.
  • You will need to evaluate and critique them and write a synthesis related to your research question.
  • Consider using a matrix to organize and compare and contrast the articles . 
  • Which authors are conducting research in this area?  Search by author.  
  • Are there certain authors’ whose work is cited in many of your articles?  Did they write an early, seminal article that is often cited?
  • Searching is a cyclical process where you will run searches, review results, modify searches, run again, review again, etc. 
  • Critique articles.  Keep or exclude based on whether they are relevant to your research question.
  • When you have done a thorough search using several databases plus Google Scholar, using appropriate keywords or subject terms, plus author’s names, and you begin to find the same articles over and over.
  • Remember to consider the scope of your project and the length of your paper.  A dissertation will have a more exhaustive literature review than an 8 page paper, for example.
  • What are common findings among each group or where do they disagree? 
  • Identify common themes. Identify controversial or problematic areas in the research. 
  • Use your matrix to organize this.
  • Once you have read and re-read your articles and organized your findings, you are ready to begin the process of writing the literature review.

2. Synthesize.  (see handout below)

  • Include a synthesis of the articles you have chosen for your literature review.
  • A literature review is NOT a list or a summary of what has been written on a particular topic. 
  • It analyzes the articles in terms of how they relate to your research question. 
  • While reading, look for similarities and differences (compare and contrast) among the articles.  You will create your synthesis from this.
  • Synthesis Examples Handout. Sample excerpts that illustrate synthesis.

Regis Online students have access to Brainfuse. Brainfuse is an online tutoring service available through a link in Moodle. Meet with a tutor in a live session or submit your paper for review.

  • Brainfuse Tutoring and Writing Assistance for Regis Online Students by Tricia Reinhart Last Updated Oct 26, 2023 424 views this year
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  • Last Updated: Feb 21, 2024 12:05 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.regiscollege.edu/nursing_litreview


Scholarly Writing and Publishing: Nursing/Health Sciences

  • Biology/Life Sciences
  • Nursing/Health Sciences
  • Faculty Research Symposium
  • JSU Writing Center

Selected Books on Writing for Publication

Below are selected electronic books held by the library. Click on the title or cover to see the book or check the online catalog for availability.

help writing nursing research paper

Writing Journal Articles

help writing nursing research paper

Predatory Publishing

  • Characteristics of E-Mail Solicitations From Predatory Nursing Journals and Publishers Article from The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing. (Must be affiliated with JSU for access.)
  • How to Assess a Journal How not to publish in undesirable journals
  • Predatory Publishing: Getting Start(l)ed? This guide from Rutgers University helps with Open Access publishing by helping to identify "potential non-scholarly, for profit only publishing practices, also known as predatory publishing."
  • Predatory Publishing: How to Avoid Exploitative Journals Predatory Publishing: How to Avoid Exploitative Journals from the American College of Sports Medicine
  • Predatory Publishing is No Joke Article from American Journal of Nursing on how unethical publishers take advantage of unsuspecting authors.
  • Think Check Submit A collaborative effort from a number of scholarly communication organizations to help researchers with selecting trusted journals in which to publish.

Search Tips

help writing nursing research paper

Academic or scholarly writing and publishing and related subjects span several disciplines, Library floors, and subject headings. Below are just a few selected examples of Library of Congress call number ranges for browsing.

Writing in Nursing and Health Sciences: 9th Floor RT 24 Nursing- Authorship Writing: 5th Floor LB 2369 Academic Writing Academic Writing: 6th Floor PN 146 Scholarly Publishing PE 1408 Academic Writing  

Some Keyword Searches in the JaxCat catalog are:

  • Academic journals writing
  • Academic writing
  • Writing in nursing
  • Scholarly writing

Some Subject Heading Searches in the JaxCat catalog are:

  • Technical writing
  • Communication in science
  • Technical writing--Handbooks, manuals, etc.

Resources for Wrting for Publication

  • Mulford Health Sciences Library Instructions to Authors in the Health Sciences Provides links to instructions for authors for more than 6,000 journals in the health and life sciences
  • Nurse Author & Editor A free quarterly online publication dedicated to nurse authors, editors and reviewers more... less... From Wiley-Blackwell
  • Writing for Professional Journals (12 modules) This course is open to the public and is licensed under Creative Commons. Patricia Gonce Morton, PhD, RN, FAAN, University of Utah College of Nursing Dean, authored the content as part of a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) while participating in the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow program. more... less... From the University of Utah College of Nursing
  • Writing for Publication: Step By Step This series of articles from the American Journal of Nursing takes "nurses step by step through the publication process, highlighting what gets published and why, how to submit articles and work with editors, and common pitfalls to avoid."
  • Creative Commons: About the Licenses "Creative Commons helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world."

Resources from Scholarly Writing and Publishing Presentations

  • Adding Your Citations to RefWorks: 4/21/22 Detailed instructions for using RefWorks in science and health databases
  • RefWorks Setup Getting started with RefWorks
  • Scholarly Writing and Publishing PowerPoint slides from the Scholarly Writing and Publishing workshop on October 20, 2023
  • Scholarly Writing Presentation Handout PDF handout for October 20, 2023
  • Scholarly Writing and Publishing, Part 2 PowerPoint slides from the Scholarly Writing and Publishing Part 2 presentation on October 27, 2023

Where to Submit a Paper

  • Elsevier Journal Finder Elsevier® Journal Finder helps you find journals that could be best suited for publishing your scientific article.
  • JANE (Journa/ Author Name Estimator) JANE helps authors decide where to submit a paper or find relevant articles to cite in a paper.
  • Selecting a Journal Resources to help you select a journal in which to publish your research.

Health and Sciences Librarian

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Literature Reviews

help writing nursing research paper

Nursing Journal Lists

  • Directory of Nursing Journals Compiled by Nurse Author & Editor and INANE (International Academy of Nursing Editors)
  • Lippincott Nursing Center Over 70 journals listed by subject.
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  • Last Updated: Oct 27, 2023 3:50 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.jsu.edu/scholarlywriting



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  1. Writing Your Manuscript: Structure and Style

    This series will help nurses develop good writing habits and sharpen their writing skills. It will take nurses step by step through the publication process, highlighting what gets published and why, how to submit articles and work with editors, and common pitfalls to avoid.

  2. Academic Guides: Common Assignments: Writing in Nursing

    Like other APA style papers, research papers in nursing should follow the following format: title, abstract, introduction, literature review, method, results, discussion, references, and appendices (see APA 7, Sections 2.16-2.25).

  3. Write your research paper the right way

    Read the rubric. Seriously, read it. On occasion, I have read a paper and wondered one of two things: Did the student even look at the rubric? Did someone else write this research paper? Do not make us think this for a second. Once we think this, we will be reading your research paper even more critically.

  4. Nursing: How to Write a Literature Review

    1. Start with your research question Begin with a topic. Do background reading . Understand the topic. Familiarize yourself with the terminology. Note what words are being used and keep track of these for use as database search keywords. See what research has been done on this topic before you commit to the topic.

  5. Scholarly Writing and Publishing: Nursing/Health Sciences

    Writing for Publication: Step By Step. This series of articles from the American Journal of Nursing takes "nurses step by step through the publication process, highlighting what gets published and why, how to submit articles and work with editors, and common pitfalls to avoid." Creative Commons: About the Licenses.