Writing in the Nursing Program

Improving Writing in General

  • Purchase writing resources prior to beginning course work, and review them throughout course work and writing papers/assignments. A reference list is included at the end of this appendix.
  • Give yourself adequate time to develop and write your paper. A good paper/assignment cannot be written in a couple of days and is the main reason we give the assigned paper/assignment at the beginning of the semester. Many papers/assignments require a synthesis or review of the literature and you need to take time to locate and read that literature before you begin to write.
  • Always use the spelling and grammar check options of your word processing program prior to submitting a paper/assignment. Proofread your hard copy. You need to print your paper/assignment and read the hardcopy. Do not proofread from the computer screen.
  • Prior to submitting work, ask a colleague to review it and provide you with feedback.
  • When you are asked to write another draft of a paper/assignment, consider that this is part of the process of developing scholarly work. Even when someone who writes well submits an article to a journal for publication, he or she is usually asked to revise an argument or change the way something is worded. Good writing is a process.

Common Problems

  • Punctuation, especially the use, misuse, or neglect of commas, is a frequent problem. Consult a good grammar text as you write your papers.
  • All sentences require a subject, verb, and object. “Hence the need for the study.” is not a sentence to be used in a scholarly paper/assignment.
  • Long sentences are a common problem. If you find yourself using a semi-colon to separate clauses, consider redeveloping the clauses into two separate sentences. Similar cautions apply to paragraph length – no longer then one double spaced page (APA, p. 36).
  • “It’s” and “its,” and possessives and plurals, are problematic. Learn the difference and when to use each! “It’s” is not appropriate in scholarly writing.
  • Passive tense can be problematic. Grammar-checking software will highlight passive sentences. Correct these by making the verb tense more active. For example, “In a study by Smith it was found that” reads better as “Smith found that.”
  • For some students, a serious writing difficulty is developing a logical flow of ideas. Many students put one idea or theme in different paragraphs with the paragraphs in-between containing different ideas. You can correct this by re-oorganizing sentences so that discussion of a given idea or theme stays together, or by adding bridging sentences to link together several paragraphs. Multiple thoughts in the same paragraph, without building to a conclusion, are another logic problem. For assistance, review Chapter 2 of the APA Publication Manual (on reserve in the Learning Resources Centre) or review a text such as the one by Zilm and Entwistle (2002). You should also consider learning to write and use detailed outlines of key points to help you identify and develop logical flow of ideas in a paper.
  • Use direct quotations rarely. Use of quotations (i.e. someone else’s words to state your point) suggests you do not understand the material. State your point in your own words; you can use a quote to reinforce or illustrate the point if necessary. When direct quotations are used, be sure to put these in quotation marks and include the page number in your reference. Within the text avoid the use of standalone quotes. Remember a quote is used to illustrate or clarify some point.
  • Do not begin each paragraph or sentence with an author’s name (e.g. Smith (2004) states) or the phrase “According to ¼.” We are looking for your critical reading or understanding of what these authors say rather than a simple citation.
  • Use personal pronouns appropriately. For example, if you did the experiment say “I collected the data,” not “The data were collected”. However watch use of editorial “we (APA, p. 38-39). Inappropriately or illogically attributing action in an effort to be objective can be misleading. APA encourages authors to write using the first person(See APA, p. 37-38). EXCEPTION: when writing an abstract, write in the third person (see p. 14)
  • Avoid anthropomorphism – do not attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects (APA, p. 38). For example, “the experiment attempted to demonstrate that …” is not appropriate.

Academic Integrity

  • Honesty and integrity is expected at all times in your written work. Honesty implies that the work you submit is your own work, any source of information is appropriately cited, and you do not resubmit papers that were written for another purpose without prior agreement with your professor. One of the most serious breaches of academic integrity is plagiarism (see below) and could jeopardize your continuance in the BN (Collaborative) Program. Cheating is also a serious breach and includes but is not limited to copying, or allowing a colleague to copy your work, or writing an assignment for another student, or submitting something written by someone else as your own paper. It also usually includes resubmitting a paper written for another course.


Direct Quotations

  • Direct quotations need to be placed within quotation marks, and the page number provided. The failure to place direct quotations within quotation marks is plagiarism.

Correct Example of Direct Quote: Phase 1 of the PRECEDE-PROCEED model “seeks to define the quality of life of the target population…” (McKenzie & Smelter, 2001, p. 17).

Incorrect Example of Direct Quote: Phase 1 of the PRECEDE-PROCEED model seek to define the quality of life of the target population (McKenzie & Smelter, 2001). This example incorrect because of the writer has not indicated that the authors’ exact words are used. Thus, while the authors are referenced, this example demonstrates plagiarism.


  • When paraphrasing another person’s writing, the text needs to be substantially different from the original material. It is not sufficient to simply change a few words.

Original Text: “PRECEDE-PROCEED has been the basis for many professional projects at the national level. This model is well received professionally because it is theoretically grounded and comprehensive in nature: It combines a series of phases in the planning, implementation, and evaluation process” (McKenzie, Neiger, & Smeltzer, 2005, p. 17)

Incorrect Example of Paraphrasing:PRECEDE-PROCEED has been used in many professional projects.This model is viewed positively for the following reasons: 1) it is theoretically grounded, 2) it is comprehensive in nature. This model includes a series of phases in the planning, implementation, and evaluationactivities (McKenzie, Neiger, & Smeltzer, 2005)

Note that in the above example, there are significant portions of the text that use the exact words as the original text (these are shown in italics). The above attempt to paraphrase is an example of plagiarism.

Correct Example of Paraphrasing: The PRECEDE-PROCEED model has guided the development of numerous health education and health promotion programs, including national programs (McKenzie, Neiger, & Smeltzer, 2005) The model is valued because it is based in theory and its nine phases thoroughly guide the program developer through needs assessment, program development, program implementation, and program evaluation activities (McKenzie et al.).

Note that in the above example, the ideas of the original text are provided, but these have been paraphrased. References have been provided to indicate the source of the ideas discussed in this paragraph.

Identifying and Addressing Concerns

  • In many cases, a faculty member will return poorly written papers/assignments to students without a grade. If this happens to you, talk to your instructor to identify the problem, then consult Memorial University’s Writing Centre, or read a text (e.g., Zilm & Entwistle, 2002), and/or consider seeking the assistance of a writing tutor.
  • Review feedback on specific drafts or papers and identify how you can improve your writing (e.g. can you improve defending your ideas or is there a specific problem with grammar or logic or understanding content). Then consult appropriate resources and address the issue for the next draft or paper/assignment.
  • If a faculty member indicates that you have not used APA format correctly and you disagree, contact the faculty member and indicate the relevant section of either the Pocket Guide to APA or the APA Manual to support your point. Remember APA also has comments and suggestions for improvement in writing style.

Suggested Resources

Cuddy, C. (2002). Demystifying the APA style. Orthopedic Nursing, 21(5), 35-42.

Dexter, P. (2001). Tips for scholarly writing in nursing.Journal of Professional Nursing, 16 (1). 6-12.

Mailey, S. (2001). Avoiding pitfalls in APA style…American Psychological Association. SCI Nursing, 18(3), 154-5.

Perrin, R. (2004). Pocket guide to APA style. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.

Shrunk, W. (1995). The elements of style. New York, N.Y.: Trustees of Columbia University. (Note: available at: http://www.bartleby.com/141)

Zilm, G., & Entwistle, C. (2002). The SMART way: An introduction to writing for nurses. Toronto: Saunders.

Developed and Approved by the Graduate Studies Committee,SchoolofNursing,MemorialUniversityofNewfoundland– February 2004

Revised and Approved – December 2004

Adapted by the Ad Hoc Committee on Writing Skills, Centre for Nursing Studies, 2005


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