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
- 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.
- Punctuation, especially the use, misuse, or neglect of commas,
is a frequent problem. Consult a good grammar text as you write
- All sentences require a subject, verb, and object. “Hence
the need for the study.” is not a sentence to be used in a
- 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.
- “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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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 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,
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 evaluation
activities (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
Identifying and Addressing
- 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.
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,
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,
School of Nursing, Memorial
University of Newfoundland – February
Revised and Approved – December
Adapted by the Ad Hoc Committee on
Writing Skills, Centre for Nursing Studies, 2005