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How to Write a Great Research Paper

Nurses who decide to go back to school to earn a bachelor's degree must often reacquaint themselves with the rigors of being a student. Even in an online RN to BSN program, nurses may need to adjust their schedules and carve out time for studying. In addition, nursing students may have to refresh their writing skills. Fortunately, there are resources and methods nurses can use to survive the writing process and produce a great paper.

Why Do Nurses Have to Write Research Papers?

The reasons why nurses have to write research papers may vary, but generally, writing teaches students valuable proficiencies that will assist them in the nursing practice. When nurses write research papers, they learn how to:

  • Document research
  • Cite sources
  • Maintain an academic/professional tone
  • Organize information
  • Synthesize data
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Manage their time

What Is a Research Paper?

A research paper is a form of academic writing that demonstrates a student's knowledge, research capabilities, powers of persuasion and organizational skills. Typically nursing school research papers are written in the American Psychological Association (APA) format and fall into three categories:

  • Analytical: The writer presents an analysis of a topic.
  • Argumentative: The paper is analytical but the writer uses information as evidence to reinforce their opinion and persuade the reader.
  • Expository: The research paper explains a subject matter with facts.

What Is APA Style?

The APA style is used most often by scientists, educators and nurses. Writers in other fields may use another style, such as AP, MLA or Chicago. The purpose of any style guide is to ensure the writer's work is consistent for a number of criteria, including citations, font size, spacing, paragraph structure and punctuation.

What Is the Structure of a Research Paper?

A good research paper usually follows this structure no matter the subject or style:

  • Introduction: The paragraph should introduce the subject and include your thesis.
  • Body of paper: These paragraphs should cover your analysis of a topic and show evidence that supports the argument or explanation you have offered.
  • Conclusion: The end should recap the main point of your paper, reassert your thesis statement and signal the end of the document to the reader.

Where Can Nursing Students Find Help When Writing a Research Paper?

Nursing students can search the internet for helpful sites that offer advice about writing, researching and formatting a paper. Here are a few online resources that assist students with their writing:

  • Grammar Girl – Read blog posts about various aspects of writing or submit your own grammar questions.
  • PERRLA for APA – This subscription service helps you format your paper and offers many other services as well.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) – Discover useful resources and instructional materials for writing a research paper.

What Are Some Tips for Writing Research Papers?

Guidelines for writing a research paper may vary among nursing schools and educators, so it is important for students to adhere to any instructions given to them, including citation style. It is also beneficial for students to check in with their institution's writing lab for any questions they may have about writing. Other tips include:

  • Form a well-thought-out thesis statement to set a clear purpose for your paper.
  • Create an outline so you have a roadmap while writing your paper. An outline aids the writer with arranging key points and organizing the flow of the paper.
  • Develop a spreadsheet to keep track of the information needed for references.
  • Read your paper out loud or use a text-to-speech feature on your computer so you can pinpoint problems that need to be addressed.
  • Revise your paper without permanently deleting any information. Instead cut and paste the text you want to omit to another document so it is available if you later decide you want to use it.
  • Edit your paper to correct grammatical mistakes, style errors and typos.

It is important for nurses to know how to effectively communicate in writing because they have to provide accurate documentation regarding a patient's medical history, health status and care plan. Nurses may also find themselves in a research role at some point in their careers. Through writing assignments, students gain awareness of the need to write clearly, accurately and concisely. 

Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe's online RN to BSN program.

Sources: Do You Have to Write Papers in Nursing School?

AllNurses: Good Writing Skills Are Essential

Quick and Dirty Tips: Grammar Girl

Grammarly Blog: This Is How to Write an Effective Research Paper Write Your Research Paper the Right Way


Purdue University: Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

ThoughtCo.: What Is a Research Paper?

Nurse Journal: Writing Guide for Nurses

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