Writing Nursing Dissertations, Theses, & Scholarly Projects (Step-by-Step Guide)

Written by Brandon L.
July 27, 202313 min read

Are you a doctoral, master's, or undergraduate nursing student? If yes, this guide has been made with love for you! As long as you will be handling a nursing scholarly project or dissertation, you have all the reasons to fall in love with this well-thought-guide.

The dissertation writing process is complicated to follow for most DNP nursing students. So, we made this guide to simplify it; we created this guide to make life a bit easier for you.

Although this step-by-step guide will not help you design and execute clinical research or implement quality improvement processes, it will help you successfully plan, organize, and write your nursing dissertation or scholarly project.

Let's begin.

What Is a Nursing Dissertation?

A nursing dissertation is a comprehensive research project a doctoral nursing student must complete to graduate. The centerpiece of the research project is the paper documenting the entire thing, and this paper is what is known as a dissertation.

Some nursing programs allow master's and undergraduate students to write dissertation-style scholarly projects.

Generally, nursing dissertations are between 5,000 to 15,000 words long. The length of your dissertation will largely be determined by the dissertation requirements set by your nursing school, and it will take you between three to twelve months to write your dissertation, depending on its length and complexity.

A typical nursing dissertation comprises several chapters, a references section, and an appendices section. And it is formatted following the APA manual. Therefore, when writing your paper, strictly adhere to the APA stylebook or Harvard formatting style (if you study in Australia or UK).

Before you commence your dissertation project, you will be assigned a supervisor. The supervisor is supposed to provide you with the guidance (mentorship) you need to make your dissertation a robust academic paper.

Therefore, you and them will have to meet regularly to discuss your dissertation from start to finish. So if you were very worried about the dissertation writing process thinking you may fail, you now know there will be someone to hold your hand and get you back on track in case you deviate.

As you may have noticed from the information shared above, a nursing dissertation is a complex paper requiring plenty of work and effort, and you must be at the top of your game to write a solid dissertation paper.

Get professional dissertation assistance from us if you need it at any point.

Structure of Nursing Dissertation

The typical nursing dissertation has the following chapters.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Your nursing dissertation paper has to start with an introduction chapter. In the chapter, you have to provide the reader with background information on the topic of your paper.

The chapter introduces your topic and makes a case for its significance. Any reader reading your nursing dissertation should tell the topic by reading the first two sentences.

Therefore, if you are handling a topic related to CAUTIs, make the first sentence about CAUTIs. A good way is to give statistics or statements about the CAUTIs issue in healthcare settings. You can describe the affected population, the depth of the issue, mortality and morbidity rates, and whether the problem is increasing or its impact is becoming greater.

Beginning the introduction with general to specific ideas help you settle in your readers. Therefore, the first paragraph of the introduction chapter should state the problem and its prevalence while making a general statement on its impact. In your succeeding paragraphs, you will have finer details through your problem statement, purpose statement, research or PICOT question, rationale, and aims/objectives. Giving appropriate background information is critical.

When writing the introduction, you should answer four fundamental questions:

Answering these questions should lead to a statement otherwise referred to as the purpose statement. A clear and concise purpose statement is vital to your dissertation introduction. Below is an example of a nursing dissertation purpose statement.

This quality improvement project aims to reduce the number of adverse events resulting from medical errors within 90 days.


This study aims to determine whether educating mothers about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding at a local maternity facility will increase adherence and acceptance to exclusive breastfeeding of newborns rather than relying on alternatives such as supplements.

Sometimes, you might be required to write a PICOT-based problem statement, especially if you are doing quantitative research or a quality improvement project.

PICOT stands for:

Related Reading: Formulating PICOT questions plus examples.


Since patients with heart failure have high readmission rates, I propose implementing a discharge follow-up program that encompasses a bi-weekly post-discharge home visit by nurse practitioners within two weeks after hospital discharge. I will compare 40-day readmission rates for the patients during the six months before and after the introduction of the program.

Note that not all the purpose statements for nursing dissertations can be formulated as PICOT problem statement the same way; not all nursing research questions can be PICOT questions. If you are doing a qualitative study, you might sometimes not have time for the comparison, outcome, and intervention.

The purpose statement is followed immediately with a brief description of how you plan to accomplish it. If you are researching, detail your methodological approach, including the design, population, data collection and analysis methods, and your research timeline.

You can also state your hypotheses in the last section of your paragraph. It is also wise to include measurable objectives. Below is an example:

In the six months following the implementation of nurse practitioner-led post-discharge home visits, the average 40-day heart failure readmission rate will be lower than 15%.

You can then reformulate the purpose statement into a specific research question or question. For example:

Will biweekly home visits by nursing practitioners for two weeks post-hospital discharge reduce the readmission rates of heart failure patients?

You also have to provide the reader with an explanation of what is known and what is not known. Lastly, it would be best to clarify what you are investigating, why it is important, and how you will do it.

A good dissertation introduction convinces the reader of the importance of the study or project, includes clear and concise background information and a purpose statement, and identifies the research gap. It also has research questions, hypotheses, and aims/objectives as needed.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

In this chapter, you have to provide definitions for concepts and variables, and you also have to provide the theoretical framework for your dissertation. Your chapter two or the literature review should help the readers understand everything you are researching, the issue you are addressing, and why. It offers the context of the study or project and establishes the significance of the topic and the rationale for your study. A comprehensive literature review helps you critically analyze or synthesize all the available information on your topic. Focusing on peer-reviewed scholarly articles published in the last five years is important. You can also include seminal and classic articles. If you have gray literature, identify it as such in your literature review. The gray literature includes non-peer-reviewed articles,

technical reports, conference reports, reports from recognized organizations working in the topic area (such as NGOs), committee reports, white papers, or unpublished research report

Note that chapters one and two of the dissertation are the same as your proposal (if you were initially asked to write one). It should explain your chosen theoretical model or conceptual framework in depth. You can include your search strategy in the literature review, especially for doctoral programs.

Wrap up the literature review by stating the research gaps you identified that your current study would address.

As the literature review is the longest chapter in a dissertation, you can use subheadings to organize information and guide the readers through complex concepts.

Of course, your lit review must have a review of the literature, and you must provide a comprehensive and analytical review of the literature in this chapter, followed by a summary and an identification of the research gaps.

Chapter 3: Methodology

The methodology chapter is one of the most important chapters of a nursing dissertation because it is the chapter where the design of the study is revealed. So you have to discuss the design of your project in this chapter.

The discussion should include your planning activities, the setting, the people, the sample, the ethical considerations, the data collection, the instruments, the data analysis, the anticipated and actual barriers, the strategic plan, the budget, and the project timeline.

As you can see, many important project elements are to be covered in this chapter. Do not forget any of them if you want to ensure your dissertation is not rejected.

Chapter 4: Results/Findings

This chapter is just as crucial as the chapter above, and it is where you discuss the results of your project. The must-have elements of this chapter include the response rate, the sample size, the demographics, the preliminary statistical tests, the final statistical tests/analyses, the qualitative tests, and the project implementation outcomes.

This chapter is written at a sweet time when you have already collected and analyzed your data or fully implemented your science project. Writing it is all about detailing what you did and the outcomes.

Chapter 6: Discussion, Conclusion, and Recommendation

After detailing what you found out in your project, you must discuss it. This is where the rubber meets the road - you show the world you are a worthy doctoral nursing student. The essential elements you should have in this chapter include a summary of the problem, your key findings, what the findings mean, the implications of the findings, recommendations for future studies, the limitations of the study, and your conclusion.

Unlike the previous chapters, this chapter needs a lot of thinking and a lot of interpretation. Therefore, many students consider it challenging to write. Nevertheless, it is just a chapter like the others, so it can be written. It may take some time, but it can be written.

References Section

The references section of your dissertation is where you make clear the sources you used. Here, you must correctly include the citations for all the sources you have used in your dissertation.

You do this to credit other researchers who have worked hard like you to do their research. You also do it to avoid plagiarism, and your dissertation can be dismissed if you are found to have used sources without referencing.

Appendices Section

The appendices section of your dissertation provides your reader with all the images, tables, and other raw data you used in your dissertation.

You do this to enable the reader to find out more without distracting them from the main objective of your paper.

Steps for Writing the Perfect Nursing Dissertation

Follow the steps below to write a brilliant nursing dissertation.

1. Choose A Topic

This may sound easy, but it is not because your chosen topic will determine whether your dissertation is successful. To choose the perfect topic for your dissertation, you need to do a lot of brainstorming.

Do this by thinking about your areas of interest in nursing. What would you like to improve or to know more about? Note down everything significant that comes to mind. Then proceed to look at recently published journal articles in nursing and note down interesting gaps in the research.

All the things you have noted are potential topics for your dissertation. Identify the three most interesting ones and present them to your dissertation supervisor for a discussion. They will help to settle on the perfect topic for your nursing dissertation.

Related Reading:

2. Conduct Pre-Research

After settling on the perfect topic for your dissertation, you should research your topic. This research aims to help you refine your topic and your potential research question.

The most efficient way to conduct pilot research into your chosen topic is to find and review relevant scholarly literature. Find the literature by searching your topic or its keywords in broad scholarly databases such as Google Scholar and CINAHL.

Take plenty of notes as you review the literature to understand the topic better.

3. Conduct Deep Research

A nursing dissertation is an opportunity to show your readers (professors) your nursing knowledge, research, and writing skills. And the only way you can confidently do this is by reading a lot of literature on the topic you want to write about.

So conduct deep research into your chosen topic to find relevant literature for your dissertation. Use the notes you took in the step above to conduct the research. And conduct the research into as many nursing databases as you have access to � Google Scholar, CINAHL, Embase, the Cochrane Library, ClinicalKey, PubMed, etc.

As you conduct deep research into the topic, take plenty of notes. Your goal during this step should be to know your topic inside-out, which will help you think clearly about it and know what exactly you need to do.

4. Write A Research Proposal

Before writing your dissertation, you will need to write a research proposal. Your supervisor will assess the proposal, and the format and all the other requirements will be made clear by your supervisor.

The proposal aims to show you understand what you want to investigate and discuss in your dissertation. Therefore, make sure it discusses your dissertation research topic, proposed methodology, and the key literature reviewed. In this step, you will have to think of the best methodology to use for your research.

Upon assessing your proposal, your supervisor will give you feedback on whether you are on the right track. They will tell you what to do to ensure your dissertation is perfect.

5. Research A Lot

After getting feedback from your supervisor, you should incorporate their feedback and then embark on research. Research differentiates an ordinary dissertation from an extraordinary one, so ensure your research is thorough.

What are you researching in this step? You are researching similar dissertations to the one you have proposed, and you should use resources like ProQuest Dissertations to find them.

The purpose of researching similar dissertations to what you have is to understand what it takes to develop an outstanding dissertation. You most likely have never read a published dissertation before. So read several and look at the language, the formatting, the methodology, the discussion, and so on to find out what you need to do.

6. Start Writing

This is where you start pulling everything together. Start writing your introduction chapter, the next chapter, and the next until you conclude. Writing the thousands of words you need to complete your dissertation will take time and effort. Have this in mind when you start writing to avoid getting frustrated.

As you are writing, make sure you properly organize your chapters. If you are unsure what chapter to write next or what to write in a chapter, refer to the outline/structure provided in this post.

One more thing to remember is that each chapter is a building block to your entire research. Therefore, it must agree with the rest of the chapters; nothing in it must sound off or out of place.

7. Present Your Paper to Your Supervisor

After you write your dissertation or thesis paper, present it to your supervisor for discussion. You now have something to show and something concrete for them to assess. Send it to them and await their feedback.

They will assess your dissertation and give you feedback. Upon receiving the feedback, you need to incorporate the feedback into your dissertation. This will ensure your final paper/dissertation is perfect or near perfect.

8. Proofread and Polish Your Dissertation

After incorporating the feedback given by your professor, proceed to proofread and polish your dissertation. Since your dissertation is thousands of words long, you should proofread and polish it chapter by chapter.

Remember, it usually takes days to proofread and polish a dissertation. Therefore, do not feel pressured or frustrated if you feel as if you are moving slowly. Just push forward, and you will get to the end.

9. Make Sure Your Dissertation Is Well-Formatted

After polishing your paper, ensure your dissertation is well-formatted. You need to be very careful when formatting. Do not forget to apply any APA rule to your dissertation.

Move methodically and apply every relevant formatting rule to your paper. Do not forget to correctly add all the references and appendices to your dissertation.

10. Present Your Dissertation to Your Supervisor

After you complete the step above, you will be all but done with writing your dissertation. What you need to do now is to present your dissertation to your supervisor one more time.

They will give you their feedback and help you prepare to defend your dissertation. Of course, you must incorporate their feedback into your academic writing before starting any dissertation defense preparations.

Once you are done with this step, you are done writing your dissertation.

Tips for Writing an Excellent Dissertation for Nursing

Follow the 20 tips below to write a brilliant nursing dissertation paper.

1. Start Immediately

When you know your school's guidelines for writing a nursing dissertation, you should start working toward choosing a dissertation topic. After choosing a topic, you should begin taking steps to prepare your dissertation writing, and then you should go ahead and start writing it.

Students often assume they have much time to write their dissertations, which is frequently untrue. Time flies when you are a DNP student; before you know it, you will have only a few short months to start and complete your dissertation.

2. Cite All the Sources You Use

When writing your dissertation, cite all the sources you use. A dissertation is an opportunity for you to show not only your academic knowledge but also your academic integrity. And academic integrity is all about honesty.

You need to cite all the sources you use. Never present someone else's work as your own. Always cite the source where you've taken information. Failure to cite correctly can result in your dissertation being rejected. Most professors are rigorous on this.

3. Make Sure Your Topic Is Specific

When choosing a topic for your dissertation, ensure it is very specific. Making sure your topic is particular will make your research easier, and it will also make your dissertation much easier to write and better to read.

In contrast, if your topic is too big or ambitious, you will end up with a situation where your dissertation sounds too broad. You will find it somewhat difficult to cover your topic as in-depth as you like. So be realistic and make your topic specific.

4. Don't Use Big Words When Simple Words Can Do

Some students think a dissertation is an opportunity to show how clever or sophisticated they are. Therefore, they use big words, jargon, and complicated sentences to try and prove this. This is unnecessary because it usually doesn't make their work any better.

Using big words, jargon, and complicated sentences will most likely make your work difficult to read and affect the flow of your work. So use simple words instead of big words whenever you can.

5. Save Your Progress Often and in Multiple Places

Starting and completing a dissertation is a massive undertaking. This is because a typical dissertation research project takes months to complete. The number of words to be typed to complete a dissertation is in the thousands, and the formatting is usually a pain in the *ss.

Because starting and completing a dissertation is difficult, you should save your work often and in multiple places. Send it to yourself in your email, WhatsApp, etc. These backup copies will ensure all your hard work is NOT lost in case you lose your laptop to a virus or a thief.

6. Plan Your Dissertation Writing Process

There is a common saying about planning that is almost cliche; failure to plan is planning to fail. If you don't plan for something, you unknowingly plan to fail. In other words, planning is essential for success.

So once you have been given the departmental guidelines for writing your dissertation, you should create a comprehensive plan with deadlines to help you complete your dissertation project. If you create a good plan, you will find the dissertation writing process easier to manage.

7. Make Sure Your Major Decisions Are Research-Informed

Every big decision you make in your paper is informed by research. For example, before you decide on your dissertation's focus, research more about what you want to write about. Before you decide on the methodology, you will use research to discover the most appropriate methods.

Making sure your significant decisions are backed up by research, as shown in the two examples above, will make it very easy for you to explain why you made the decisions to your reader. It will also make your paper more scientific, accurate, and academically sound.

8. Don't Panic If Your Results Are Not What You Expected

If, after the careful planning and execution of your research project, you get unexpected results, do not panic. Unexpected results are as valuable as expected results. The key is to ensure you do more research to explain why you think you got the results in your discussion section.

By carefully explaining your unexpected results, you will show your professors you researched and understood the topic you decided to investigate. This will make your dissertation more likely to get an excellent mark/grade.

9. Show Awareness of Your Research Limits

No matter how good your research skills are, it would help if you showed awareness of your research limits. In other words, you should indicate the limitations of your research. Of course, the limitations you note should be backed by research.

It is essential to show the limitations of your project to let the reader know that you fully understood what you were doing. It will also help the reader better contextualize your results and findings.

10. Take It Easy

Dissertation writing is hard work full of pressure and frustrations. However, it would help if you didn't let all that get to you. Remember, calm heads always prevail in one way or another. So keep your cool no matter how difficult and frustrating things get.

Keeping your cool no matter what will help you to push forward with your dissertation and to complete it successfully. On the other hand, getting frustrated will make you get stuck, which could result in you being among the many students that do not complete their dissertations.

11. First Draft Isn't Perfect

When writing your dissertation, please do not feel too much pressure to perfect it. Your goal should be simple; to complete your first draft, and your goal should be to complete your first draft to get a psychological boost and not make the first draft perfect.

The first draft isn't perfect and doesn't need to be. If you make peace with this, writing and completing your first draft will be easier. The right time to perfect your dissertation is when you proofread and edit it. You will likely need to rewrite huge parts of your first draft to make it brilliant.

12. Be Flexible

You don't need to write the chapters in a perfect sequence when writing your essay. Some students think they must do this to create a good dissertation flow. However, this is unnecessary. You create flow by making sure your sentences and paragraphs are easy to understand and by using transition words and sentences generously.

Write your chapters in any way you like. Write the easiest chapters first to gain momentum in your dissertation. This momentum will make it easier for you to write the trickier chapters.

13. Talk to Your Supervisor Regularly

Your dissertation supervisor/advisor is there to help you. You should plan to meet them biweekly or more frequently to discuss your dissertation and the progress you have made.

Do not be afraid or shy to ask your supervisor questions or clarifications. Your supervisor is there to help you and guide you through your work, and they are there to ensure you stay on track. So meet them regularly and show them your work to get all the tips and advice you need to remain on the proper path.

14. Don't Forget Your Health and Wellbeing

Just because you are writing your dissertation doesn't mean you have to let your health deteriorate. Ensure you eat well, exercise, sleep well, and stay healthy. Maintaining your physical health will ensure you are always in the right physical condition to continue putting in the hard work you need to complete your project.

Also, take care of your mental health. Your mind is the biggest tool you need for your project. Protect it by taking breaks, relaxing, hanging out with friends, and doing the things you love regularly. The more protected your mind is, the easier it will be for you to write your dissertation.

15. Don't Give Up

Dissertating is extremely difficult, and it takes a lot of physical and mental effort to complete a nursing dissertation successfully. Therefore, you will feel like throwing in the towel in many instances. If you ever feel like this, do not do it.

Don't give up. Choosing not to give up and persevering will give you a sweet psychological victory and make you feel stronger and more capable. It will also ensure you graduate with the master's degree you have sacrificed so much to get.

16. Get Professional Assistance

If you ever need assistance to complete your entire dissertation or a part of it, do not be afraid to get professional assistance. Many dissertation writing services can provide you with the help you need at a small fee, and we are one such service.

We can help you write your entire dissertation paper or any part. We can also help with specific parts of the dissertation writing process, e.g., the research, the introduction, the methodology section, the proofreading/editing, and the incorporation of feedback.

As you Ponder the Steps and Tips ...

We hope we have provided all the information you need to write your nursing dissertation paper. Now it is up to you to step up and start dissertating.

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If you need any assistance in any part of the dissertation writing process, please visit our home page to get the assistance you need.

Our writers are experts with multiple years of experience in dissertation writing, formatting, and editing. You can never go wrong with us.


What is a dissertation?

A dissertation is a comprehensive research paper written to fulfill a graduate degree. A dissertation can be required to graduate with a master's degree in the UK or a doctorate in the US.

How long does it take to write a nursing dissertation?

It usually takes between three to twelve months to write a nursing dissertation. Two things largely determine how short or long a dissertation will be - the departmental requirements and the methodology chosen.

Can you write a nursing dissertation in three months?

Yes, you can. It is certainly not impossible, but it will take you every single day and night to write a good dissertation in such a short time. If you don't have enough time to write a dissertation, work with a dissertation writing service to get the desired results quickly.

Related: Is the WGU RN-BSN worth your time and money?

How long is a nursing dissertation?

Most nursing dissertations are between 6000 to 16000 words long. Of course, some are shorter than 6,000 words, and others are longer than 16000 words.

What is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation?

Masters nursing students need to write a thesis to complete their degree, while doctoral nursing students need to write a dissertation to complete their degree.

Is getting help with a nursing dissertation online illegal?

No, it is not. No law prohibits you or anybody else from getting a nursing dissertation online. So if you need dissertation assistance from a dissertation writing business online, feel free to get it.

Can a nursing dissertation be done as a group?

No. Dissertations are individual research projects, and you can get guidance and assistance from anywhere you want, but your dissertation is your project and will only have a single author - you.

Does a nursing dissertation require an abstract poster?

Yes, if it is going to be presented at a conference. The poster should include a title, a summary, an intro, the methodology used, the results, the discussion, and the conclusions. All these things should be less than 300 words.

Do nursing students defend their nursing theses and dissertations?

Yes, they do. In most colleges, nursing students must defend their theses and dissertations before a committee that usually includes faculty members.

Who writes a nursing dissertation?

In the US, a doctoral student writes a nursing dissertation, while a master's student writes a nursing thesis. In the UK, it is the opposite - a master's student writes a nursing dissertation and a doctoral student writes a nursing thesis.

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