How to Write a Nursing Dissertation: 12 Steps

December 7, 2016

1. Choosing the Right Nursing Dissertation Topic

Choosing the right nursing dissertation topic is crucial for a successful research project. It is important to select a topic that aligns with your interests, expertise, and career goals. Consider areas within nursing that you are passionate about or that have current gaps in knowledge. Additionally, think about the relevance and significance of the topic to the field of nursing. Conducting a preliminary literature review can help you identify existing research and potential areas for exploration. Consult with your advisors, professors, and peers to gain insight and feedback on potential topics. It is essential to choose a manageable and feasible topic within the given time frame. A well-chosen nursing dissertation topic sets the foundation for a compelling and impactful study.

Potential Nursing Dissertation Topics:

  1. The impact of nurse-patient communication on patient satisfaction
  2. Exploring the role of advanced practice nurses in primary care
  3. Addressing health disparities among marginalized populations through nursing interventions
  4. The effectiveness of interdisciplinary teamwork in improving patient outcomes
  5. Examining the prevalence and management of medication errors in nursing practice
  6. Investigating the impact of nurse-led education on chronic disease management
  7. Enhancing end-of-life care through ethical decision-making in nursing
  8. The relationship between nurse staffing levels and patient safety in acute care settings
  9. Analyzing the role of technology in nursing practice and education
  10. Exploring the experiences and challenges of male nurses in a female-dominated profession.

2. Developing a Research Question and Objectives

Developing a research question and objectives is an essential component of a nursing dissertation. The research question guides the study’s focus and helps to determine the scope of the investigation. The following steps can assist in developing a clear and relevant research question:

  1. Identify a broad area of interest within nursing.
  2. Conduct a preliminary literature review to identify gaps in knowledge and potential research questions.
  3. Refine the research question by consulting with advisors, peers, and subject matter experts.
  4. Ensure that the research question is feasible, manageable, and relevant to the field of nursing.

Once the research question has been established, it is important to set specific objectives that align with the research question. Objectives should outline the specific goals of the study and provide a clear plan for achieving these goals. The following tips can assist in creating clear and effective objectives:

  1. Be specific and measurable in outlining the study’s intended outcomes.
  2. Ensure that objectives are manageable within the given time frame and available resources.
  3. Align objectives with the research question and use them as a guide throughout the study.
  4. Continuously revisit and revise objectives as needed throughout the study to maintain alignment and focus on the research question.

By taking the time to develop a clear research question and objectives, nursing researchers can optimize the potential impact and relevance of their dissertations.

3. Developing an Outline

Developing an outline is a crucial step in organizing and structuring a nursing dissertation. An outline serves as a roadmap, providing a clear overview of the research project and ensuring a logical flow of ideas. Below are some key steps and considerations when developing an outline:

  1. Introduction: Provide an overview of the research topic, highlight its significance, and present the research question or problem statement.
  2. Literature Review: Summarize existing research related to the topic, highlighting the current gaps in knowledge.
  3. Methodology: Describe the research design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques to be used in the study.
  4. Results: Present the findings of the research, organized in a clear and concise manner.
  5. Discussion: Interpret the results, compare them with existing literature, and provide insights and implications for nursing practice.
  6. Conclusion: Summarize the key findings, discuss the limitations of the study, and suggest directions for future research.
  7. References: Include a list of all sources cited in the dissertation.

It is important to note that the outline may be revised and adjusted as the research progresses. Regularly reviewing and refining the outline ensures a cohesive and well-structured nursing dissertation.

Sample outline for a nursing dissertation:

I. Introduction

  • Background and context of the research topic
  • The research question or problem statement
  • Aim and objectives of the study

II. Literature Review

  • Overview of existing research related to the topic
  • Identification of gaps and limitations in current knowledge

III. Methodology

  • Description of the research design and approach
  • Details of data collection methods and instruments
  • Procedures for data analysis

IV. Results

  • Presentation of the research findings
  • Data analysis and visualization

V. Discussion

  • Interpretation of the results
  • Relationship between the findings and the research question
  • Comparison of the findings with existing literature
  • Implications for nursing practice and future research

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of the main points and implications
  • Limitations of the study
  • Recommendations for future research

VII. References

  • List of all sources cited in the dissertation

Note that this is a very basic outline and the structure of a nursing dissertation can vary depending on the research question, methodology, and other factors.

4. Finding and Evaluating Sources

Finding and evaluating credible sources is crucial for writing a strong nursing dissertation. Reliable and relevant sources provide the foundation for the research and ensure the credibility of the study. Here are some key steps and considerations when finding and evaluating sources:

  1. Identify relevant databases: Begin by identifying databases specific to the field of nursing, such as PubMed, CINAHL, or Scopus. These databases are rich sources of scholarly articles and research studies in nursing.
  2. Utilize search strategies: Use appropriate keywords and phrases related to your research topic to optimize the search results. Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) can be used to refine the search.
  3. Evaluate the credibility of sources: Consider the following criteria when evaluating the credibility of sources:
    • Author’s credentials and expertise
    • Publisher or journal reputation
    • Citations and references within the source
    • Currency and relevance of the information
    • Objectivity and potential bias
  4. Seek peer-reviewed articles: Peer-reviewed articles undergo rigorous scrutiny by experts in the field, ensuring the quality and integrity of the information presented.
  5. Access additional sources: Explore other resources such as books, dissertations, conference proceedings, and reputable websites relevant to nursing.
  6. Take thorough notes: Keep track of relevant information, including key findings, methodology, and important citations, to facilitate efficient referencing and citation later on.

By following these steps and critically evaluating sources, researchers can ensure the validity and reliability of their nursing dissertation, and contribute to the existing body of knowledge in the field.

5. Writing a Nursing Dissertation Introduction

The introduction is an essential element of any nursing dissertation. It sets the stage for the research, establishes the significance of the study, and provides the reader with an overview of what the dissertation entails. Here are some key considerations for writing an effective introduction:

  1. Start with a strong opening statement: The opening statement should grab the reader’s attention and provide context for the research. Consider starting with a shocking fact or statistic, a thought-provoking question or statement, or a relevant anecdote or quote.
  2. Provide background information: Briefly provide background information on the research topic, including its history, current status, and relevance to nursing practice.
  3. Clearly state the research question or problem: State the research question or problem in a clear and concise manner. This will guide the reader’s understanding of the purpose and scope of the research.
  4. Provide an overview of the dissertation: Give an overview of the structure and main points covered in the dissertation, including the methodology, findings, and implications.
  5. Establish the significance of the study: Clearly articulate why the research is important and what contributions it will make to nursing practice and research.
  6. Provide a roadmap for the dissertation: Outline the major sections and chapters of the dissertation, giving the reader an idea of what to expect throughout the study.

By incorporating these elements, researchers can write an introduction that engages the reader, sets the stage for the research, and provides a clear overview of the nursing dissertation.

6. Conducting a Literature Review

Conducting a thorough literature review is a critical component of writing a nursing dissertation. A literature review allows the researcher to identify existing gaps in knowledge, explore key themes and concepts related to the research, and position the study within existing scholarship. Here are some key steps and considerations for conducting a literature review:

  1. Identify relevant databases: Identify nursing-specific databases such as PubMed, CINAHL, or Scopus, and search by appropriate keywords related to the research question.
  2. Evaluate the sources: Evaluate the credibility and relevance of each source based on the author’s credentials, quality of the research methodology, and timeliness of the study.
  3. Organize the sources: Organize the sources based on key themes and subthemes.
  4. Analyze the sources: Analyze the sources to identify patterns, discrepancies, and gaps in the research.
  5. Synthesize the information: Synthesize the information by identifying common themes and key findings in the literature.
  6. Write the literature review: Write a comprehensive review of the literature, summarizing the key findings from the studies, explaining the gaps identified, and providing a rationale for the research.
  7. Continuously update the literature review: Continuously update the literature review through the writing process to incorporate newly published studies or important updates that may have emerged.

By following these steps, researchers can write a thorough literature review that provides a strong foundation for the nursing dissertation and contributes to the existing body of knowledge in the field.

7. Selecting the Right Research Methodology

Selecting the right research methodology is a crucial step in writing a nursing dissertation. The chosen methodology will guide the data collection and analysis process, ensuring the research aligns with the research objectives and produces reliable and valid results. Here are some key considerations when selecting the research methodology:

  1. Research question and objectives: Align the research question and objectives with the appropriate research methodology. Consider whether qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods research is most suitable to answer the research question.
  2. Research design: Determine the appropriate research design, such as experimental, correlational, descriptive, or exploratory, based on the research question and objectives.
  3. Population and sample: Define the target population and select a representative sample that allows for generalizability and meaningful analysis.
  4. Data collection methods: Choose the data collection methods that best suit the research objectives and the nature of the research question, such as interviews, surveys, observations, or document analysis.
  5. Data analysis: Select appropriate data analysis techniques, whether quantitative or qualitative, and consider the software or tools required for analysis.
  6. Ethical considerations: Ensure the chosen methodology upholds ethical principles and safeguards the rights and privacy of research participants.
  7. Feasibility: Consider the resources, time constraints, and practicality of implementing the chosen methodology within the given research context.

By carefully considering these factors, researchers can select a research methodology that aligns with the research objectives, maximizes the quality of the findings, and contributes to the overall success of the nursing dissertation.

8. Collecting Data and Analyzing Findings

Collecting and analyzing data is a key step in writing a nursing dissertation. This process allows researchers to gather evidence, answer research questions, and draw meaningful conclusions. Here are some important considerations when collecting data and analyzing findings:

  1. Data collection methods: Select the appropriate methods for data collection based on the research objectives and chosen methodology. These can include surveys, interviews, observations, or analysis of existing data.
  2. Data validity and reliability: Ensure that data collection methods yield reliable and valid data by following standardized protocols, using validated measurement tools, and implementing quality assurance measures.
  3. Ethical considerations: Adhere to ethical guidelines when collecting data, including obtaining informed consent, ensuring participant confidentiality, and considering potential risks and benefits.
  4. Data organization: Develop a systematic approach to organize and manage collected data, such as using a data coding system or maintaining a comprehensive database.
  5. Data analysis techniques: Choose appropriate data analysis techniques based on the research questions, methodology, and type of data collected. This can involve quantitative statistical analysis, qualitative thematic analysis, or a combination of both.
  6. Interpretation of findings: Analyze and interpret the data to identify patterns, themes, or significant findings that answer the research questions and contribute to overall knowledge in the field of nursing.
  7. Triangulation: Consider utilizing multiple data sources or methodologies to strengthen the reliability and validity of the findings.

By adhering to these considerations, researchers can collect and analyze data effectively, ensuring accurate and insightful findings for their nursing dissertation.

9. Writing a Results Section

The results section of a nursing dissertation is a critical component where the researcher presents the findings of the study. This section provides a comprehensive overview of the data analysis and allows readers to understand the outcomes of the research. Here are some key considerations for writing an effective results section:

  1. Organize the presentation: Structure the results section in a logical and coherent manner, ensuring it aligns with the research objectives and research questions.
  2. Use appropriate data visualization: Utilize tables, graphs, charts, or figures to present the data in a clear and concise manner, making it easier for readers to understand the findings.
  3. Provide descriptive statistics: Include relevant descriptive statistics such as means, standard deviations, frequencies, or percentages to summarize and describe the data.
  4. Present inferential statistics: If applicable, include inferential statistics such as t-tests, chi-square tests, or regression analyses to demonstrate relationships or differences between variables.
  5. Interpret the findings: Provide a clear and concise interpretation of the findings, relating them back to the research objectives and research questions.
  6. Address limitations: Acknowledge any limitations or potential biases in the data collection or analysis process, ensuring transparency and integrity in reporting the findings.
  7. Support the results with evidence: Back up the results with evidence from the data collected, quoting relevant quotes or examples as necessary.

By following these considerations, researchers can effectively present the results of their nursing dissertation, providing a comprehensive and meaningful summary of the research findings.

10. Writing a Discussion Section

The discussion section of a nursing dissertation is where the researcher interprets and contextualizes the findings, places them in the broader academic literature, and provides insights into their implications for nursing practice. Here are some key considerations when writing a discussion section:

  1. Interpret the findings: Provide a thorough interpretation of the findings, explaining their significance and relating them back to the research questions and objectives. Discuss how the findings align or diverge from existing literature.
  2. Compare with prior research: Compare the findings with those of previous studies, highlighting similarities, differences, or contradictions. Identify gaps in the literature that the study fills or areas that require further investigation.
  3. Address limitations: Acknowledge and discuss the limitations of the study, such as sample size, data collection methods, or potential bias, and explain how these limitations may have influenced the results.
  4. Discuss implications for practice: Examine the implications of the findings for nursing practice, policy, or education. Discuss how the results can inform healthcare decision-making and contribute to improving patient outcomes.
  5. Propose recommendations: Based on the findings, propose recommendations for future research or interventions in the field of nursing. Identify areas that require further investigation or potential interventions that may address identified issues.
  6. Reflect on the research process: Reflect on the research process, discussing any challenges, lessons learned, or suggestions for improvement. This provides transparency and insight into the researcher’s journey.
  7. Summarize the key points: Conclude the discussion section by summarizing the key points, emphasizing the novelty, significance, and potential impact of the findings.

By addressing these considerations, researchers can write a comprehensive and meaningful discussion section that contributes to the knowledge base in nursing and provides guidance for future research and practice.

11. List of References Formatting

The list of references is an essential part of a nursing dissertation, as it provides credibility and enables readers to locate the sources that informed the research. Here are some key considerations for formatting the list of references:

  1. Use consistent formatting: Ensure that all references follow a consistent and standardized format throughout the list. This includes consistent use of punctuation, capitalization, and italics as per the chosen citation style.
  2. Alphabetize the references: Arrange the references in alphabetical order based on the last name of the author(s). If there are multiple works by the same author, list them in chronological order, starting with the oldest.
  3. Include all relevant information: Each reference should include the author’s name(s), date of publication, title of the work, name of the journal or book, volume and issue number (if applicable), and page numbers.
  4. Use proper citation style: Follow the specific citation style instructed by your academic institution or journal guidelines. Commonly used citation styles in nursing include APA (American Psychological Association), AMA (American Medical Association), or Vancouver.
  5. Pay attention to formatting details: Different citation styles have specific formatting requirements. Take note of details such as the use of DOI (Digital Object Identifier), inclusion of URLs for online sources, or use of hanging indents.
  6. Cross-check for accuracy: Double-check each reference against the original source to ensure accuracy. Pay attention to the spelling of author names, publication dates, and titles.
  7. Use appropriate punctuation: Follow the rules of punctuation specified in the chosen citation style. This includes the use of commas, colons, and italics as required.

By adhering to these considerations, researchers can effectively format their list of references, ensuring accuracy, consistency, and adherence to the chosen citation style.

12. Nursing Dissertation Proofreading

Proofreading is a critical step in the process of writing a nursing dissertation. It involves carefully reviewing the document for errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. Effective proofreading ensures that the final dissertation is polished, professional, and free from mistakes that can affect its credibility.

To achieve thorough proofreading, it is recommended to take a systematic approach. Start by reading the dissertation carefully from beginning to end, focusing on individual sentences and paragraphs. Look for grammatical errors, such as subject-verb agreement or incorrect verb tenses. Check for punctuation errors, such as missing or misplaced commas, periods, or semicolons. Pay attention to spelling mistakes, especially for technical terms or specialty jargon specific to nursing.

Additionally, ensure that the formatting of the dissertation is consistent throughout. Check headings, subheadings, and citations for accuracy and adherence to the prescribed style guide. Consistency in formatting enhances the professional appearance of the document.

Proofreading should be done multiple times to catch all errors. Taking breaks between proofreading sessions can help maintain focus and fresh eyes. Seeking assistance from a trusted colleague or utilizing proofreading tools can provide an extra set of eyes and increase the chances of identifying any errors or inconsistencies.

By implementing a rigorous proofreading process, researchers can present a high-quality nursing dissertation that reflects their expertise and dedication in the field.

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