How to Write a Nursing Dissertation
By Maria Kielmas
, last updated March 13, 2012
Collegiate nursing programs require students to produce a dissertation, usually in their final year of study. The length and type of the dissertation depends on the academic level of the diploma or degree, and the college or university in question. It can range between a 3,000 to 6,000-word literature review on a given topic to a 200-page account and analysis of original experimental research.
The dissertation topic must be of special interest to the student and part of the research interest of faculty members who will supervise and examine the work. The research and writing must be completed within a strict period and be appropriate for the student's skills. A student with limited mathematical or statistical skills should not choose a topic that requires an extensive quantitative analysis. Experiments require a supply of human volunteers, even for simple tests, and in many cases access to laboratory facilities.
Outdated or discredited research and plagiarism are serious risks for new dissertation writers. A student must conduct preliminary research to understand the current state of knowledge on a chosen subject. A topic such as “cosmetic surgery” must be narrowed to matters such as aftercare, self-esteem issues or traumas associated with reconstructive surgery.
The optimal length for a dissertation title should be between seven and 15 words. The lower the academic level of the dissertation, the shorter the title. An original and outstanding dissertation may be published later as an academic paper with a long title.
The abstract is a 150- to 350-word account of the motivations, methodology and conclusions of a student's research. It is crucial to the dissertation. Readers and examiners first read the abstract and then the conclusion of any dissertation or research paper.
The introduction describes how the chosen topic emerged as an issue to be investigated. The evolution of some form of maternity care or health policy over the last four decades could be examples. The introduction must conclude with a question about an issue that the student intends to research.
The literature review analyzes academic and professional publications on the student's chosen topic. If the dissertation consists of a literature review alone, it must be preceded by the abstract and introduction, and closed with a discussion, conclusion and bibliography.
The methodology section describes how a student gathered information and data from experiments. The student must disclose the age and full health background of any volunteers. There should be a full account of data recording and analysis, and an explanation of how the student reached any value judgments about the reliability or veracity of the data.
A graphic presentation of experimental results together with a short explanation is the best format in the results section of a dissertation. It makes the dissertation look professional and easier to read.
The discussion is the heart of the dissertation. The student must pose the question asked in the introduction and provide a clear reasoning about how the experimental results led to a conclusion. Students should avoid a single block of text and break up the account into separate paragraphs.
The conclusion is a presentation of the answer to the topic question posed in the introduction. It must provide a justification of how the preceding discussion led to the conclusion. The student must indicate issues that were not resolved and suggest directions for future inquiry.
References and Bibliography
Full references to all material consulted should appear in the body of the dissertation in the name of an author and date of publication. The bibliography is a list of all sources. The academic institution usually stipulates a particular reference format that is to be used.
Any help that a student has received should be listed in the acknowledgements section. This includes the academic supervisor, library or hospital staff, friends and family.