How to write a good paper!

by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium Online

 

An American nurse gives comfort to a traumatized child earthquake survivor. It's not enough to demonstrate knowledge in a thesis paper; you have to use compelling story telling to attract and hold your reader's attention and get the A.

An American nurse gives comfort to a traumatized child earthquake survivor. It’s not enough to demonstrate knowledge in a thesis paper; you have to use compelling story-telling to attract and hold your reader’s attention and get the A.

I work in a hospital in direct patient care. I’m also an individual who has an advanced degree in New Media Journalism. As such, people I work with in the nursing department who know about my abilities are always handing me papers they are writing for their advanced degree programs in Nursing. And while I don’t know about the concepts they are taking about in these papers, I surely can help them articulate them properly.

Thinking about the process of helping colleagues write and edit good papers, I did some thinking and some research about that topic. There are lots of good web articles on it. One I especially liked was written by Noam Shpancer Ph.D for Psychology Today entitled, “Seven Tips For Writing a good Paper”. I don’t disagree with any item he has written about, I would just like to add a comment or two of my own.

Shpancer has two illustrative quotes in his article that I would like to focus on. He quotes satirist Karl Kraus, who says, “You don’t even live once!” so don’t waste time. He also quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein who says, “Everything that can be said can be said clearly!”(emphasis mine).

Here is what I have to say about that: if your writing isn’t compelling, why write it? It’s more than just a grade you need, if the writer writes a piece that makes the reader’s eyes bleed, then the reader is going to throw that piece in the trash before finishing! For a blogger like me, that means that my article won’t get a like and won’t get shared. For a grad student attempting to enhance their career with a higher degree it means a bad grade that will ultimately hamper their efforts.

Be compelling. Be a story teller. Tell an anecdotal story about how you applied nursing theory and principles into your care at the patient bedside. It isn’t enough to understand Martha Rogers’ theory of Unitary Human Beings or Margaret Leineger’s theory of Cross-cultural nursing. Your professor wants to know that you know how to put those ideas into practice.

Here’s an example of what I mean. My brother several years ago went down to Haiti with a group of fellow nurses and doctors to provide care to victims of the earthquake. For two weeks they saw patients and provided for their needs in the harsh conditions following the earthquake aftermath. Above the daily cares and treatments the doctors and nurses provided necessary for the return of patient health and wellbeing, the health care workers did something else that I thought was remarkable. After hours they would go and pick out a child there at the hospital traumatized by the earthquake and just hold them and talk with them. It was psychological, tactile care to help calm children traumatized by disaster. They would just sit in a chair, and hold the child , sooth them, and talk with them. That’s it. Isn’t that something?

Rogers theorized that human beings are luminous in nature, more and different than the sum of their parts, exchanging energy with their environment and inseparable from that environment. While not exactly being scientific in her theories, Rogers touched on the fact that we are more than just living tissue, we are humans with intrinsic value and while she stopped short of calling us souls, she hinted at it, indicating that nursing care is a little less science and a little more art. Soothing a distressed child suffering from a traumatic event is good nursing.

The culture of Haiti is quite a bit different than the culture here in the United States, and yet we are all just people aren’t we? Leineger talked about the importance of understanding different cultures even as outsiders so that we as health care professionals give quality care that fits the patients’ needs. Understanding who the patient is and where they are from helps us to help them heal faster. Holding a child, understanding their cultural background and circumstances, how is that not good health care?

See what I did there? Now you know I have some knowledge of nursing theory and can tie it in with everyday life, while at the same time telling a compelling story that will keep your attention as a reader. Go forth and do likewise!

One other note: If you use passive voice because you think it’s sciency and cool, forget about it! I’m going to kick you in the shins until they bleed! Reverse German word order might be cool if you are a two-foot tall, green Jedi Master named Yoda, but it is not good when you are a grad student looking for an A on that all-important thesis paper. Once you start down that dark path, young padawan, forever will it dominate your destiny! Use passive voice, you must not! Short, active, declarative sentences are the way to go!
Editing and reviewing a paper is just as important as writing it.

A paper can’t be good if it is not reviewed. If you don’t have another set of eyes to read that paper and give suggestions, there are digital editing tools out there to use. Grammerly.com is one such website where you can upload your draft document and get a second look. While not perfect, it is a start to taking out some of those easy mistakes we all get paper blind to. It’s a tool you can put in your tool kit. There is a free app as well as an advanced app you would have to pay for. You might want to try it.

Enough of my ranting. Go read Shpancer’s article here and a few others like it and then go nestle down in your quiet study area and write that spectacular paper. Good luck, Starfighter!

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