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Home  >  Medical Research Archives  >  Issue 149  > Graduate Nursing Student Scholarly Writing: Improving Writing Proficiency
Published in the Medical Research Archives
May 2023 Issue

Graduate Nursing Student Scholarly Writing: Improving Writing Proficiency

Published on May 26, 2023




Since 2011, enrollment in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) graduate nursing programs increased by almost 300%, suggesting that nursing had entered its “golden age.” This steep-growth trajectory reflects the concomitant growth in the number of doctoral programs, today exceeding 435 for the combined DNP and Ph.D. degrees. Unfortunately, the recent progress in advancing nurses in academic programs is hampered by a weakness in a competency crucial for nurses to complete their rigorous academic programs and disseminate research findings or evidence-based practice project interventions: academic writing proficiency. Since nursing curricula at the undergraduate level place lesser emphasis on the humanities, nursing students lack training in the liberal arts compendium of logic, grammar, and rhetoric necessary for effective and articulate communication and dissemination of knowledge in the field of nursing. Data generated from a recent national survey offers new perspectives on the pervasive problem of poor scholarly writing evidenced by students in graduate nursing programs: 97% of graduate papers contain grammatical errors, and only 13% of students demonstrate higher-order skills. While 81% of graduate program faculty ranked their own writing ability as “exceptional” or “highly proficient,” graduate faculty noted that 97% of the time, student papers evidenced numerous grammatical errors, such as flawed sentence structure, run-on sentences, punctuation errors, and ambiguous word choice. These data suggest that graduate nursing programs must pursue avenues to address student writing shortfalls.

The authors opine that the absence of action suggests that graduate nursing programs may be in a dilemma that parallels the metaphor and urban legend of the boiled frog, wherein acceptance of an unacceptable change occurs gradually through minor, unimportant, and unnoticed increments. Aimed at addressing this dilemma, the authors discuss the potential value of offering a customized writing course to refresh and improve students’ basic writing mechanics. A sample curriculum focuses on critical thinking, clarity, and logical flow. Nursing academicians must acknowledge the drift to low writing performance in their students, advance proficiency in scholarly writing to the top of the graduate nursing education’s agenda, and prepare nurses to achieve in nursing’s “golden age.”

Author info

Joyce Johnson, Petra Goodman

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