From staff nurse to nurse consultant: Academic essays part 2: why nurses fail assignments

23 July 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 14


John Fowler, Educational Consultant, explores academic writing

I have just done a rough calculation and estimate that I've written 100 assessed essays in my nursing career, ranging from initial registration through to a PhD. I also calculated that I've read and marked approximately 10 000 assignments from students nurses, postgraduate specialist nurses, and a variety of advanced allied health professionals. Out of that educational experience, I've identified nine main reasons why someone might fail their written assignment, and some hints on how to avoid these common errors.

The essay may be well written. It may reference the literature in an informed way, and even apply theory to clinical practice; however, if it does not attempt to answer the question set, it will almost certainly fail. This usually happens for one of two reasons. The student has a passion for a particular topic and gets carried away, forgetting what the question is asking, or, the student doesn't spend any time thinking about what the question is asking them to do. To prevent this, spend 1 hour thinking about the question and understanding its focus, then write a 10-bullet-point plan to discuss with your lecturer before you start to write the essay.

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