Professional Writing

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Professional Writing

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1. 1 Professional Writing Strategies for Nursing Students

2. 2 Memo To: Nursing Students From: Pam Selby Date: August 8, 2008 Re: What Is A Memo? A memo is a brief document that members within an organization use to exchange information. When writing a memo, consider the following: needs of your colleagues, bullets to summarize main points, order of information/priorities, and clear deadlines/timelines, meeting locations, responses needed, etc. Writing good memos can help you practice summarizing and prioritizing information. In a situation in which your intended reader may be flooded daily with memos, spice it up with color or clip art to get the reader’s attention.

3. 3 The Writing Process Pre-write: Brainstorm, cluster ideas, narrow focus, form thesis/explore purpose, target audience who will benefit from your information, draft outline. Write: Rough sections, multiple drafts, (allow “gel” time between drafts). Revise: Review with mission of altering and improving the entire text, section by section, to meet competencies of professional writing (Slide #26). It helps to have another person read it to spot inconsistencies, confusing terminology, acronyms not spelled out initially, vague or unclear areas. Edit: Review for audience/style appropriateness, main title, format, headings/subheadings, flow, and grammar. Proofread: Examine final manuscript to spot errors. Use a spellchecker and grammar checker. It helps to have another person also proofread it!

4. 4 Prewriting Strategy 1: Get Rid of Writer’s Block! Start earlier. Use food for brain fuel. Rest. Breathe, stretch, breathe. Make the commitment (QUIET private place you habitually use for writing activities and be sure to turn off phone)! Use brainstorming and prewriting strategies. Tell a friend your main idea/purpose (in 3 or 4 sentences.) Start in the middle. Write a rough draft (write fast) of any section or paragraph. Create outline(s) or diagrams. Give yourself gel time (time between drafts).

5. 5 Pick something you are interested in, not something just because there may be lots of information on it. Use an inquiry process to narrow your search: What's your initial position on the topic? What assumptions do you have about the topic? What aspect of the topic might you be interested in discovering? Why is topic relevant/interesting/important to nursing? For whom is the topic most important and why? (audience) What information will you present that benefits your targeted audience? Very common mistake to choose topic too general: results in “mind dump” of everything you ever wanted to know about a topic but no in-depth coverage of it. Very common mistake to choose topic too general: results in “mind dump” of everything you ever wanted to know about a topic but no in-depth coverage of it.

6. 6 Strategy 3: Using a Focus Wheel to Narrow Topic

7. 7 Examples of Theses or Research Foci Examples of thesis statements: "One step nurses can take to close this communication gap and assume a leadership position in health care is to promote English-Spanish bilingualism." Barcelona de Mendoza, V. (2002). A World View at Home: The Need for Bilingualism in the United States [Electronic version]. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 31, 129. "The paradigms for the nursing profession are receding, shifting and evolving without commitment from the nurses who are at the bedside." Van Sell, S.L. (2002, April - June). Nursing: Receding and Evolving Paradigms. ICUs and Nursing Web Journal. Retrieved July 26, 2002, from "If our profession is to survive, we must foster the academic life as a viable career option for nurses and work to better align the goals of expert clinical care with expert teaching and knowledge generation." Lowe, N.K. (2002). How shall they learn without a teacher [Electronic version]. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 31, 391.

8. 8 Strategy 4: Targeting An Audience You will have at least two audiences (or intended readers) for a paper: the person/group you want to inform/benefit your instructor/reviewer(s).

9. 9 Audience (cont’d)

10. 10 Audience (cont’d) It is every writer’s job to be clear, consistent, and honest with readers. Clarity: define/describe/explain any areas that would otherwise be confusing, ambiguous, vague, or abrupt. Consistency: ensure there are no illogical, incoherent, or incompatible elements in your proposal. Honesty: make it easy for readers to find reference information; acknowledge possible limitations (e.g., small sample size) and present detailed plans to overcome limitations should it be necessary.

11. 11 Prewriting Strategy 5: The Outline Living Document Reflects and preserves the written evolution of your writing process and content. Organizing Tool Cohesiveness—shows whether each section includes the appropriate information. Guide—helps you stay on track with content by exposing gaps or problems with organization, development, and flow.

12. 12 Sample Outline Outlines help you stay on track with content by exposing gaps or problems with organization, development, and flow. Introduction: (no heading, unless instructor specifies—½-1 page, double-spaced, and Includes your thesis statement or research focus/argument) Brief background of problem (stats) Purpose of research (how it will help resolve problem or contribute to knowledge base) Significance of research Does it fill a needed gap in knowledge base? Is the research timely or compelling (need it NOW)? Is it innovative in some way (new methodology? problem rarely studied? Applying old principle to new concept or using unique conceptual framework as a model through which to view the problem?)

13. 13 Sample Outline (cont’d) Literature Review (heading Level 1) Brief paragraph introducing sections to come Section 1: (brief history of the problem) Population(s) most affected (WHO) Concentration areas (WHERE) Definitions of special terms/acronyms (WHAT) Section 2: (to date, what has been done about it) Studies devoted to the problem and findings Synthesis of information most relevant to your topic

14. 14 Professional Writing Competencies

15. 15 Problems with Organization

16. 16 Problems with Development lack of rationales lack of definitions lack of examples lack of specific details poor integration of purpose/goals throughout lack of variety of rhetorical strategies faulty methodology poor use of professional sources

17. 17 Writing Strategy 6: Specific Detail Exercise Who? Where? What? When? How? Why?

18. 18 Problems with Flow

19. 19

20. 20 Thesis and Purpose Thesis or research focus is clearly stated. Purpose is clear. Argument or goals are achieved overall.  

21. 21 Organization Sections are well delineated with descriptive headings and subheadings. Paragraphs have topic sentences, and all material within is relevant to topic sentence. Transitions are used to move reader along logically to the next section or next point. Relationships among ideas are made clear through use of adverbial or transitional “cues” that let reader know how ideas are connected. All sections demonstrate relevance to thesis/focus. Organization is coherent throughout and look is professional.

22. 22 Development Each point of thesis is clearly and adequately developed with a variety of rhetorical strategies: facts, definitions, statistics, examples, relevant descriptive details, comparison/contrast, classification, analysis, analogy, synthesis. There is appropriate use of sources (relevant, recent, high quality), and vocabulary, quotes, and other supportive material that demonstrates evidence of professional writing.

23. 23 Voice and Readability Targeted audience can understand and follow ideas. Writer’s voice and tone indicate consideration for and appropriate appeal to audience.

24. 24 Mechanics and Grammar Writer uses correct punctuation, usage, and grammar. Sophistication is demonstrated by variety in sentence structure/length, a marked lack of repetition, and titles, headings, and subheadings that accurately portray section contents. Exposition is devoid of personal intrusion (e.g., first person “I,” second person “you”) and maintains professional tone throughout.

25. 25 Critical Thinking Writer demonstrates strong evidence of critical analysis, synthesis across multiple sources, meaningful reflection, and appropriate ethical standards.

26. 26 Criteria for Professional Writing

27. 27 Strategy 7: Avoiding Writing in 2nd and 3rd Person Increasing one's [3rd person] workload is taxing on both your [2nd person] physical and mental health. Unless someone [3rd person] is in a physically-intensive profession, your [2nd person] body is wasting away while you [2nd person] are working. Additionally, your [2nd person] diet also suffers as you [2nd person] spend more time at work. No longer do you [2nd person] have the time to prepare healthy meals at home or even worse, we [3rd person] may not have time to eat at all. Excerpt from student paper, 2007

28. 28

29. 29 Strategy 9: Titles and Headings for Unity

30. 30 Strategy 10: Writing an Abstract Components of An Abstract In a paragraph of approximately 100 to 200 words, an abstract may convey some or all of the following: description of a main problem/issue, prevalence, and population(s) most affected (topic). focused statement of author’s opinion or aims regarding problem/issue (purpose). description of what has been done to resolve problem/issue and/or what new information was learned (findings). relevance of findings to targeted audience and to nursing research/practice as a whole (conclusions). Implications for further research or call for action (recommendations).

31. 31 Retrieved (and revised) on December 18, 2008, from An effective abstract: uses one or more well-developed paragraphs, which are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone. uses an introduction-body-conclusion structure in which the parts of the report are discussed in order: purpose, findings, conclusions, recommendations. follows strictly the chronology of the report. provides logical connections between material included. adds no new information but simply summarizes the report. is intelligible to a wide audience.

32. 32 Theories, Models, and Hypotheses How do you write about theories, models, and hypotheses? For some great examples, check out the following web sites: For a review of the Scientific Method, see

33. 33 Strategy 11: Literature Review (as part of a study or project) Retrieved August 25, 2007, from: See Also: Fink, A. conducting research literature reviews: from the Internet to paper. Access at: Are relevant previous studies described? Are references current (or seminal studies included)? Is the literature review organized to demonstrate the progressive development of ideas through previous research? Is a theoretical knowledge base developed for the problem and purpose? Does the literature review provide rationale and direction for the study? Is a clear, concise summary presented of the current empirical knowledge (data produced by experiment or observation) in the area of the study? Is a clear concise summary presented of the current theoretical knowledge in the area of study?

34. 34 Literature Review (as a type of paper) Retrieved (and adapted) August 27, 2007, from Before you start Have you broken down your research question into specific subject keywords? What category are you searching (Nursing > Public Health > Breastfeeding)? What aspect of the subject do you want to cover (Skin-to-skin contact for breastfeeding difficulties postbirth)? Searching the sources Have you found and searched the most relevant databases? CINAHL?  Evidence-based and Cochrane? Have you looked for books and book chapters about your research question? Have you checked Google Scholar? Analyzing your results Has your search been wide enough to find all the relevant material? Have you limited your search to exclude all the irrelevant items? Have you identified the key references among the material you have found? Have you included articles that support your perspective? Have you included articles contrary to your perspective? Have you worked out the strengths and weaknesses of each item in your literature review?

35. 35 Links to Literature Review Information (U of Michigan)

36. 36 Links to Writing a Case Study (and samples) Case Studies In Nursing Ethics By Sara T. Fry, Robert M. Veatch:,M1 For a free subscription to our publication: Nursing & Healthcare Directories on: The Nurse Friendly Clinical Nursing Case Studies, please send a blank e-mail to: [email protected]

37. 37 Links to Writing a Logical Argument The following sites provide everything from info on writing experimental reports, lit reviews and APA style to detailed instructions about how to write an argument and support your “proofs” or hypotheses logically: (includes logical fallacies) (sample of published logical argument)

38. 38 Please contact me with any questions or concerns at [email protected]

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