Academic writing is a source of anxiety for many adults who return to school. But fear not—chances are you’re a better writer than you think.
If you’re like most nurses, you probably don’t do any kind of structured writing on a regular basis. You mostly fill out reports, you text, you email—so it’s easy to feel that an academic paper will require skills that are stressfully out of reach. You may worry about making errors in grammar, punctuation, and syntax, thereby incurring a harsh reality check from an unforgiving red pen. Or perhaps your anxiety is related to doing research—figuring out how to gather and make sense of all the data you’ll need to write a good paper.
Getting beyond the fear of grammar is the first step.
Let’s put grammar aside for a moment. Think of writing papers as your basic ability to explain things well—to organize ideas and present them in the right form. This is a step by step process that nurses are good at.
Tap into your ability to just put ideas into words.
Good writing starts with simply having something to say. You collect data, form an opinion, reach a realization, draw connections between new thoughts and your existing nursing knowledge. And can do all this without worrying about grammar.
The secret is to start with the knowledge you already have.
Let’s say you were asked to write a paper about interpreting patients’ own words into language that reveals their symptoms from a medical point of view. You probably already have a few thoughts on this topic, based on your years of bedside experience. This is the basis of your research: all that you’ve learned on the job about communicating well with patients. So a good first step is to make a list of everything you know and feel about how to interpret patient language into consistent symptoms language.
Collaboration with others helps to inform you.
Speaking to other nurses about their experiences about patient communication would be a logical next step. Online learning for adults is based upon collaboration and the sharing of ideas—so no matter what the subject of your paper, you’ll have a chance to learn from others as you throw out ideas for review. This helps you build confidence about the subjects you’ll write about.
In the age of the online learning, using a virtual library is as easy as shopping on Amazon.
Once you’ve gathered together your existing knowledge talked to others about your topic, it’s time to see what kind of research has been published about your topic. All kinds of data are now easily accessible online, and that cuts down on the time it takes to write a paper. The best online universities offer NetTutor, which supports subject-specific online chats and helps you gain a deeper understanding of new concepts. That’s a welcome lifeline to information, anytime you need it.
When your head is full of many different ideas about your topic, that’s called flow.
Research can be fun, a type of scavenger hunt. You load up with all the intellectual ammunition possible about your subject. Then you write from the heart, never stopping to worry about formatting or grammar. You can go back later to refine sentence structure, after all of your main ideas are organized and the “bones” of your paper are in place. Help is always there in a learning environment. You’ll receive good suggestions along the way.
Now you’re ready for the resources that will help you format your paper.
APA style (American Psychological Association) is the most recognized formatting guideline within the social sciences. You’ll find a free tutorial for APA style online to help you get started.
Learning how to write well has yet another long-term benefit.
Writing skills enable you to organize your thinking. Organized thoughts help you focus your intentions. Yes, writing offers that much!
And remember, a paper isn’t done in a day.
Each step of writing a paper is a new step towards progress and completion. With each step you complete during the online learning, education process—including writing your papers—you’ll begin to see the results of your personal and professional growth on a weekly basis. And that’s something to write home about.