1. Awareness. Try to show your understanding of the important values, issues and debates in nursing today by letting these inform your approach to essay writing. This can be seen as a guide as much as an added requirement; when stuck with how to introduce an idea or set up a discussion, consider current issues as providing a way in.
    2. Academic writing. The essay is an academic piece of work and should therefore follow academic conventions concerning style and format. Use formal language, references and specialist vocabulary where appropriate. Remember also to take care with spelling, punctuation and grammar.
    3. Genres. The subject of nursing is often approached through the different genres of work required at degree level. Be sensitive to the different requirements of care plans, reflective essays, literature reviews and so on. Adhering to the particular specifications will demonstrate your understanding of the differences between the genres, and is necessary for high marks.
    4. Content. The content of the essay will depend on the question at hand and the requirements for the work, but in general it serves to be aware of the scale of sophistication stretching from level 1 to level 3. Lower level work such as care plans can be reasonably descriptive in content, but higher level work will require more argumentative and critical substance.
    5. Theory and practice. As a vocational degree, nursing can never be entirely divorced from issues of practical application of what you have learned. It is therefore necessary to find ways to link theory with practice, demonstrating your understanding of the two-way exchange of ideas to gain top marks.
    6. Wide reading. Like all academic disciplines, excellence in nursing depends on wide reading around the subject, of both the academic literature and the clinical evidence. References to a wide range of material, preferably from a variety of sources, is necessary to demonstrate the proper level of engagement.
    7. Evaluation. Level 3 work is distinguished from lower levels by its requirement for substantial critical evaluation. Do not just gather a wide variety of sources, but consider also the strength of their arguments and take a critical distance from them in order to show your evaluative skills.
    8. Structure. Important in any essay, proper structure gives the foundations for excellence in all other assessment criteria. Different types of work will require different structures, but the basic principle of a considered, planned approach is universally applicable.
    9. Logical argumentation. As with critical evaluation, evidence of consistent logic in developing arguments tends to be a requirement of higher level work. However, making this a priority will ensure higher marks in all work. Think clearly, identify faulty assumptions and build a logical case to support your ideas.
    10. Balance. Evaluation is a type of balance – weighing the credibility of certain sources against others – but balance applies equally to all aspects of your essay. How much of your text is a review of others’ work, and how much your own? Have you given equal consideration to the subsections within the specification? Aim not to lavish too much attention on one area at the expense of others.

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