Common Genres in Nursing




“It takes the superhero genre and gives a very unique twist to it.” “History is a literary genre.” “It’s refreshing to see something new happening in the cyberpunk genre.”  Genre, genre, genre; this word appears everywhere, but not many are familiar with the definition.  Although the definition of genre varies slightly depending on the interpreter, many would consider genre to be synonymous with “category.”  Genre refers to the specific categories within a general topic.  For example, pop, hip-hop, country, R&B, rock, alternative, and classical are all different genres within the general topic of music.  So why am I sharing this information with you and how does this relate to nursing?  Well, in order to understand and analyze genres in the nursing field, one must be comfortable with the foundation prior to understand the definition of genre.  It would be wise to avoid the following situation, unfortunately, one I have experienced numerous times: read an entire piece and not understand a single thing due the lack of knowledge in the foundation of the topic.  Just as rap and rock are genres within the broad category of music, the following are genres within the nursing field that pertain to writing:  

Detailed knowledge of these genres through analysis will be beneficial in the nursing program as well as the workforce.   


Nursing Research Papers


Nursing research papers are unique and differ from other research papers.  Unlike the familiar high school term paper where a student is permitted to choose whatever topic of interest, a nursing research paper should only use nursing topics.  It should also utilize topics that are significant, meaning it should have a positive influence on our society and to medical fields in general.  A nursing research paper should only use reference materials from the world of medical literature.  Citing Aristotle or Shakespeare in a nursing research paper would just be silly.  Furthermore, accuracy is the most important aspect in writing a nursing research paper involving biological or chemical experimental designs.  Following correct procedures during lab research and accurately tallying results will give the needed credibility to the research paper.   Another point to consider is selecting the topic which has the greatest availability of resources.  This will allow for efficient building of foundation arguments.  Most, if not all, research papers are written in the American Psychological Association (APA) format.  The specifics of the format will be discussed in the Common Citation and Formatting Styles in Nursing section.


Analysis of a Nursing Research Paper


When the words “research paper” comes to mind, you might be envisioning a collection of information such as articles, books, people, and artworks.  Yet, a research paper is more than  just a collection of difference pieces of information about a topic.  A research paper analyzes a certain perspective or argues a point and is essentially an expanded essay that presents your own interpretation, argument, and evaluation of a topic.  For nursing research papers, or any other field of research papers, the finished work should present your own thinking backed up by various other ideas and information.

Click here to view an example nursing research paper and follow along as we refer to this example paper throughout the analysis.    



The general purpose of writing a nursing research paper is to share with your audience your experimental findings.  The purpose of sharing your results could be:

When reading a nursing research paper, one can view the purpose from different angles:

In the example research paper, the purpose of the experiment is to prove whether or not “physical activity interventions implemented during and following treatment can prevent decline or improve [a variety of aspects pertaining to one's health]” (p. 578)  In addition, “The purpose of this paper is to describe the study design, along with outcomes related to recruitment, retention and representativeness, and intervention participation” (p. 577)  It is important to mention that research papers usually do not have an implied purpose.  The significance lies in the idea of eliminating any ambiguity and to be clear and concise in order to effectively carry out the message.  Although the purpose of the research paper and the experiment are often explicitly stated, the purpose of the authors could, however, be implicit.  For example, throughout the research paper, the authors note this main idea: “…integration of exercise into the care of women with breast cancer” (p. 583), but never directly states that this is their purpose, although it is obvious and clear from their word choices: to convince a facility to integrate exercise into the care of women with breast cancer.

Persona and Audience

Usually, authors of nursing research papers share their findings via formal diction.  Instead of simply stating various medical jargons hoping the audience will understand, it is important to write the full word or phrase followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis the first time the term is mentioned.  This indicates that the word or phrase will be stated as the abbreviation from that point on.  Examples from the paper include:

The use of abbreviations makes the paper less wordy and easier to follow (click here to explore other useful abbreviations commonly used in the Nursing program).  You do not have to define every word you think the audience may not understand.  In fact, the lack of definition to unfamiliar terms will highlight the intended audience.  For example, the authors mention that the majority of the participants were diagnosed with “infiltrating ductal carcinoma” (p. 581), but did not further explain that term.  This is likely to indicate that the audience should already have previous knowledge of this term, such as nurses and doctors; moreover, this would mean that the purpose is directed at these particular individuals, which attempts to persuade them to integrate exercise into the care of women with breast cancer.  In addition, nursing research papers have strategically integrated charts and tables in attempt to display lengthy and complex information in a more orderly, concise, and clear fashion for an easier understanding and interpretation. 

Rhetorical Appeals

Before getting into depth with the analysis, knowledge of logos, pathos, and ethos is necessary to fully understand the information.  Laura Bolin Carroll (2010), author of “Backpacks vs. Briefcases: Steps toward Rhetorical Analysis,” notes that

Now that the basic foundation is established, we can apply our knowledge to nursing research papers.


Logos is the most prominent appeal in research papers.  Statistics, data, and logical statements all contribute to the use of logos.  For example, the authors of the example paper appeal to logos when incorporating this sentence in their piece because it appeals to our intellectual side:


Although the majority of research papers should include the logos appeal, ethos is another main appeal that should be incorporated generously.  Authors should try to build their credibility as well as that of the experiments throughout nursing research papers.  One of the manners in which to effectively establish credibility is to explain each step of the process in the experiment and the reason behind their decisions.  For example: 

Also, authors should try to eliminate bias in their research by practicing randomization, giving everyone or everything the same chance of being selected.  If participants of the experiment  underwent training programs to ensure that all staff had the required skills, mentioning this fact in the nursing research paper is another way to build credibility.  For example:

Furthermore, you should not just simply regurgitate your statistical data, but rather explain the way in which they are calculated and the significance of these numbers.  For example:

The sole purpose of incorporating these details is to instill trust in the audience, further building the overall credibility and contributing to the ethos appeal. Throughout research papers, the authors should cite reputable sources to support their arguments and to assure the audience that relevant and necessary research was done prior to starting the experiment, illustrating the  formation of an informed hypothesis.  In our case, the authors of the example nursing research paper cite the Cancer Council Australia and the American Cancer Society (p. 583). 

It is imperative to illustrate that possible errors and biases could be present in the research.  The authors do this by stating:

However, one should not state possible errors without a rebuttal.  In rebutting the errors and bias, the authors note that “theses are unlikely to influence intervention effects...” (p. 583).  It appears that stating the possibility of errors and bias will hurt an author's credibility; however, mentioning the items that could generate even the slightest errors actually builds onto the ethos appeal and, therefore, their credibility. 


One appeal that authors of nursing research papers rarely touch on is pathos.  Throughout the work, the diction should be fairly neutral, meaning that the facts, statistics, background research, results, and all other aspects of the paper does not have a great enough positive or negative connotation to appeal to the audience's emotions.  This is preferred in a nursing research paper (and in the APA format) to prevent biases. 


Nursing Case Studies


A case study is a detailed, complete record of a single individual, including personal history, background, presentation, test results, and interview findings, as well as subjective and objective observations.  This method of study is being used increasingly in nursing and is commonly used in undergraduate nursing programs.  The obvious reason for this is that no two patients are ever alike in every respect.  Therefore, one case study focuses on only one individual.  Nursing case studies are mostly used by nurses in training because they can safely practice their decision-making skills, use critical thinking to analyze the situation, and develop cognitive reasoning abilities without the risk of harming the actual patient. 


Analysis of a Nursing Case Study


Writing a case study is a bit like writing a detective story.  The first thing to remember about writing a case study is that it should have a problem for the readers to find a solution to.  The case should have a sufficient amount of information for the readers to understand and analyze the situation, as well as to solve it in the end.  A good case is more than just a description.  A description tells the readers everything—lists the information and comes to conclusions.  On the other hand, an effective case study arranges information in such a way that the reader is in the writer's shoes at the initial encounter with the problem.  Readers should be challenged intellectually and should experience the same things the author did when he or she started the  investigation.  Readers should also have enough information to draw possible conclusions.  In addition to the strategies mentioned above, the strategies below also contribute to an effective case study.  

Click here to view an example case study and follow along as we refer to this example paper throughout the analysis.



The primary purpose of a nursing case study is to challenge the audience.  Authors write case studies to share their experience with nurses or others in the medical field who are learning to be great at their occupation.  Those who are in training could learn from the case studies without their physical presence in the situation being presented nor the risk of harming the patient.  More information about the purpose of case studies will be sprinkled throughout the analysis.


After extensive research and brainstorming about the topic of the case study, the next thing on the agenda is to organize the sections of the case.  Generally, the organization of the case consists of:



In a detective story, the crime happens right in the beginning and the detective has to organize the information in order to solve it.  One begins by raising a question.  Usually, a case study begins with a quote of someone you interviewed.  In our case, a 42-year-old marathon runner was interviewed.

The introduction should give clues to the reader and could be used to raise the question and set the stage for the rest of the story.  In our case, the interviewee asked:


The background section of the case study is usually brief.  A paragraph or two should be sufficient to introduce the subject matter to the audience and to inform the reader of the topic being discussed.  Background knowledge of the topic will establish a foundation and help the readers to understand more complicated issues later on in the case study.  In our example, the author briefly talked about skin cancer in the background portion of the case study.  Then, the author moves on to the body and gets more detailed.   He lists and discusses the specifics of the different types of skin cancers that could all be plausible conclusions.


Once the reader knows the question, it is now the appropriate time to present relevant information in the body of the case study in order for the reader to come to a logical conclusion.  In our example,  the author proposed a variety of possible diagnostics for the patient's mole:

When presenting this information, you must be careful not to give the answer away too easily.   The author in the example case study simply stated descriptions of the different types of possibilities.  Remember, challenging the audience is the primary purpose of writing case studies.


Rather than stating the answer in the conclusion of the case study, leave the reader with more questions to keep their noggins going.  The last sentence in the discussion/conclusion section of the example case study creates ambiguity.  It notes:

As the reader, you probably think you just wasted twenty minutes of your precious time reading the introduction, the background, and the body of the mystery story, and never even got to find out what happens at the end!  However, time was nowhere near wasted.  Because you went through the process of reading and formulating possibilities in your mind, you have further developed your cognitive abilities to draw conclusions based on relevant evidence.  By ending your case study on a question or with ambiguity, you are allowing the readers to discuss the situation themselves and to shape their conclusion-drawing abilities.   


Persona and Audience


Case studies are generally written in formal diction.  Although it is formal, it should not be a hard read because most case studies are written for those who want to build their problem-solving abilities in relation to the medical field.  Therefore, if the author anticipates the audience to be unfamiliar with a certain word, the author will usually define the term or further explain it in more detail.  For example, the author in our example case study mentioned “Keratinocytes” and defined it in fear that his audience will not know this term:

However, there are some expectations for the reader to know certain medical terms as seen when the author mentions “xeroderma pigmentosum” and “Gorlin-Goltz syndrome,” terms those who do not have some sort of medical foundation would not be familiar with.  This implies that the directed audience are those who have obtained some sort of foundation in the medical/biology field and to be able to further build their knowledge with reading such case studies.

Rhetorical Appeals  

Before getting into depth with the analysis, knowledge of logos, pathos, and ethos is necessary to fully understand the information.  Laura Bolin Carroll (2010), author of “Backpacks vs. Briefcases: Steps toward Rhetorical Analysis,” notes that:

Now that the basic foundation is established, we can apply our knowledge to case study.

Logos is the most prominent appeal in case studies.  The author notes a series of statistical data that contributes to the use of logos:

The majority of the case study includes the logos appeal.  However, some ethos may be used, although it is rare.  The author in our example case study ignored the incorporation of the ethos appeal because building his credibility will do little to the purpose of the piece—challenging the audience and sharing experiences with them without their physical presence in the situation being presented.  Using the ethos appeal will not hurt the case study, but it also does not dramatically strengthen it either. 
The pathos appeal is never used in a case study.  Embedding emotions in the piece will lead to biases in the work.  Emotions will skew the reader's interpretations of the issue and will sway them toward the correct answer without them having to go through the essential cognitive process, totally defeating the purpose of a case study.  This will not allow your audience to think for themselves and draw conclusions based on proper evidence. 


Care Plans


A nursing care plan is essentially a list of care directed toward an individual or family, used by nurses and other members of the hospital team.  In other words, it is a set of processes a nurse will implement to improve the patients' conditions.  Nursing care plans are important for providing quality and effective patient care.  They help define the nurse's role in the patient's treatment, provide consistency of care, and allow the nursing team to customize interventions for each patient.  Although nurses are not legally allowed to make medical diagnoses, they are the first line of defense if physicians (who can make diagnoses) neglect the social, emotional, or other physical needs of the patient.  This is the reason why a nursing care plan is developed and used.


Analysis of Care Plans


A nurse will face many challenges and problems on a daily bases.  A care plan will help to map out what needs to be done, when, and by whom.  It will also help to relieve stress and anxiety by establishing order in the facility.  Care plans could cover a wide range of concerns and problems, or they could just focus on one particular problem at a time.  When creating a care plan, the best idea is to work with both the patient and his or her family members and friends to retrieve as much information as possible in order to ultimately create a care plan that works best for the patient.  When creating a plan, one needs to take into account the physical, mental, and social factors of their problem to treat it from all angles.

Click here to view an exampl care plan and follow along as we refer to this example paper throughout the analysis.



The main purpose of nursing care plans is to provide consistency of treatment and care across a certain period of time.  The nursing plan is a tool used to customize treatment, which is specific to the individual's needs and goals.  A nurse is required to think critically about each patient and then develop specific interventions to accommodate the patients needs.  Because no two people are alike, the uniqueness of each nursing care plan increases the effectiveness of the treatments.  If a nursing care plan is in place, nurses from different shifts or even different floors would have access to this information in order to provide the same quality and type of care to patients.  Additionally, nursing care plans can also be used by team members aside from those who are nurses.   For example, a physical therapist who is aware that a patient is at risk for depression after reading the care plan may choose to have that patient participate in a group exercise program instead of exercising alone.  It is important to remember that patients themselves have a say in their care plans.  The involvement of patients in their own treatment is critical to their success and the speed of their recovery.  A nursing care plan can help both nurses and patients to identify achievable goals for the patient and offer them encouragement when goals are being met. 

Audience and Persona

Because the persona in which the writer takes on is directly related to who the writing is directed toward, audience and persona will be discusses together in this section.  As I have mentioned previously, nursing care plans are created primarily for the nursing team.  However, they can also be used by interdisciplinary team members to promote a comprehensive holistic treatment (treatment of the whole person, taking into account all possible factors).  The interdisciplinary team may include:

The audience could encompass the patients themselves because as noted earlier, patients play a crucial role in their own betterment of health. The majority of care plans are written as a demand, meaning they implies the word “you,” although it is not explicitly stated.  To put this in context, let us look at some examples from the example case studies:

Another factor that stands out is that the notes do not have to be in complete sentences.  However, this does not give you the liberty to spell incorrectly nor does it mean your sentences could be incomprehensible.  For example, we can fully understand these fragments below in our example case studies although they are not in complete sentences: 



Care plans can be created in four stages:

Stage 1: Evaluation

The first stage is the evaluation of the situation.  Ask questions like:

Stage 2: Research

The second stage is to research about the patient and find as much information as you can about available options as well as alternatives.  To help guide you:

Stage 3: Analysis

After sufficient information is gathered, the third stage is sit down with the patient and his or her family members and friends to analyze options.  Look at all of the possible options and weigh the benefits against the costs because in the real world; that one perfect solution does not exist.  It is all about choosing what works best for the patient from the options available, although it may have its costs.

Stage 4: Decision

The last stage is to make a decision on which route of treatment to take that would be best for the patient.  It is best to go through the list of problems and decide what can be done to solve them.  Although everyone may not agree with every aspect of the treatment, it is important to work together with everyone to come up with the best possible solution.

A care plan can include anything that you may think is appropriate for the patient.  For example, you may consider the following questions when creating a care plan:


Carroll, L.B. (2010). Backpacks vs. briefcases: steps toward rhetorical analysis. Retrieved from    

Hayes, S., Rye, S., Battistutta, D., Yates, P., Pyke, C., Bashford, J., & Eakin, E. (2011). Design and implementation of the exercise for health trial-a pragmatic exercise intervention for women with breast cancer. Contemporary Clinical Trials, Retrieved from

McDonnel, M., Hentgen J., Holland, H., & Loevison, P.W. (2002). Problem oriented nursing care plans. Retrieved from           

Prime®. (2010, October 10). A harmless mole or skin cancer?. Retreived from