• 18 October 2019
  • 17 min read

Seven tips for Student Nurses about to write their ACPE dissertation

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

Using her immediate experience, Claire's video provides 7 tips for Student Nurses who are about to start writing their dissertation (ACPE).

Play video: with just 6 weeks left to submit her own dissertation, Claire takes the opportunity to share her experience

Topics covered in this video

0.00 Introduction

0.37 Let me put your mind at rest about your dissertation

2.35 ACPE - 4000 words didn't seem enough

5.06 Nursing Dissertation Tip 1 - Be Organised!

5.11 Be sure your research sources are of good quality

6.34 Nursing Dissertation Tip 2 - Get help if you're unsure what to write about

7.21 Nursing Dissertation Tip 3 - choose a subject you're passionate about

9.02 Nursing Dissertation Tip 4 - break the work down into manageable chunks

11.31 Nursing Dissertation Tip 5 - look up EVERY word you don't understand

12.44 Nursing Dissertation Tip 6 - understand how to conduct research

14.05 Nursing Dissertation Tip 7 - make good use of your supervisor

15.02 Conclusion

0.00 Introduction

Hi everyone and welcome back to another blog. If you don't know who I am. My name is Claire Carmichael and I am a final year adult nursing student. I literally have six weeks left, about to submit my dissertation, which made me realize this is a perfect time to do a video all about dissertations, tips, advise, help, anything to get you through this. Hopefully I'm going to be able to help and put your mind at rest on dissertations and hopefully give you some advice and tips to help you get through it and hopefully smash it.

0.37 I panicked, but I did it and I'm alive

Firstly, I just wanted to say that dissertation was something that I really panicked about, something that I've always panicked about. So much so that it almost made me not come in to do a degree because I was so paranoid and worried and anxious about the dissertation and how I'm going to manage to write so well and academically and all of this and all these fears have been going on in my head for a long time.

And in second year, I actually started to research into my topic ready for my dissertation because I was really worried about it and I wanted to be prepared as much as I can, so I can fully, fully understand your anxieties and worries right now, I promise you.

But you know what? I've just got through it. I've just done it and it was all right. I'm alive. I'm well.

I'm smiling at the end of it because I know it's done, but the process of doing it is hard. It is long winded. You will tear your hair out. It might drain your soul a little bit, but overall it's okay. It's not too bad. It's just for me personally, it was because I'm so organized.

I like to get my assignment, write my assignment, done, dusted. But this is something that you physically, I can't, my hats off to you if you can do this, but I physically can't sit down and write a whole dissertation in a night or even a week.

This has taken me the whole year. This is not something that you can just sit and write, I'm sorry. If you're that person that can do that, hats off to you. Please give me help with tips and advice and leave comments below for other people because I have no idea how you do it.

Also, I just wanted to put in a little disclaimer here. I can only speak about my own experiences, my own thoughts, my own opinions. Also, each university will have their own ways of doing things as well, so always follow yourself and your university's guidelines before taking advice from anybody else.

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2.35 ACPE - 4000 words didn't seem enough

So our dissertation was a dissertation slash not called dissertation. Ours was called ACPE, and ours was 4,000 words. We had to come up with our own research question using a PEO or a PICO. Then once we found our literature, we had to use a cast tool, which critically appraises each article to show the strengths and weaknesses of every single article.

So we had to do 10 of those for each article. And then once we found all the strengths and weaknesses, we put all of that into a data extraction table. And then once we've done this with the data extraction table, we come up with a theming table.

And then once we've done our theming table and we found recurrent themes within all of the articles that sort of correspond to the answer of the question, then we go into our resource section and conclusions and things like that. So that's overall what we do.

That was a really whistle stop tour of what we actually do for our ACPE assignment.

So what I discovered was 4,000 words was, it wasn't enough. It was not enough so I've used tables, I've used appendices, things like that to sort of help me out a little bit. It's been tough to narrow it all down because everything I'm writing needs to be in there. So that's been my toughest challenge with this so far.

But here are my top tips for you starting your dissertation and I'm going to make it a broad top tips so that whatever you're doing your dissertation on, however you do in your dissertation, it's just going to be my tips that are going to help you hopefully whatever way you're doing this.

5.06 Nursing Dissertation Tip 1 - Be Organised!

My first tip is always my tip for everything, be organised. Look at this as early as possible. It is never too soon to start looking at your dissertation.

Like I said, I started mine in second year. I started researching around the topic and thinking about possible questions for my topic and then I looked at research papers.

It took me months, months and months and months to find my 10 articles, took me a long time. And this is the main bulk of your whole assignment is finding the research out there.

So if you could get a head start and do that first before anything, so if you've got some time off over the summer, over Christmas, I know we all want to be out there having fun and making the most of our time off, but if you get a headstart now, it's going to save you a lot a lot of work in third year. I promise you the best tip I can ever give, which is why it's number one.

5.11 Be sure your research sources are of good quality

My next thing I'm going to say is not a tip, it's more advice because this is a question that I asked at the very start.

It's also a question that I've been asked about other students as well. And the question is, when you're looking at your research articles, how do you know if it's good enough or not to use in your dissertation?

This is what you're trying to assess. So I know our dissertation was all about, the main thing they want you to know is how to do research.

The whole point of the dissertation is so that you know how to go and find a good quality piece of research that backs up what you're doing out there in nursing practice.

So this is your job. Doing your dissertation is working out, is this article good enough or not? And this is where the use of your cast tool comes in.

My next thing I'm going to say is not a tip, it's more advice because this is a question that I asked at the very start. It's also a question that I've been asked about other students as well.

And the question is, when you're looking at your research articles, how do you know if it's good enough or not to use in your dissertation? This is what you're trying to assess. So I know our dissertation was all about, the main thing they want you to know is how to do research.

The whole point of the dissertation is so that you know how to go and find a good quality piece of research that backs up what you're doing out there in nursing practice. So this is your job. Doing your dissertation is working out, is this article good enough or not? And this is where the use of your cast tool comes in.

So if have got an article that isn't very good quality, you've done your cast tool and you found a lot of weaknesses with it, that's great because that's really, really critical. You are going to be able to critically analyze that amazingly in your resource section.

That's going to give you some massive brownie points. So don't worry about it being strong or weak article or research paper or trial, whatever it is.

As long as you can explain it, critique it and all of that, you're going to be well away and you're going to have those really strong articles that you found as well that's going to balance it and make it sound juicy, hopefully, fingers crossed.

6.34 Nursing Dissertation Tip 2 - Get help if you're unsure what to write about

Tip number two. If you're really, really struggling for articles, you can't find anything, go to your local library, go to your university library, your personal development department.

Get them to help you search as well. Not only this, but they can actually gain access to other schools that you might not have access to so they can put in requests for articles for you.

Do that. I've done this and it's really, really helped me because it found my last 10th article, so that really helped me.

But please make use of the services at university because that's what they're there for. They're free to use. Use them. They're amazing, they're knowledgeable, and it'll just open a whole new world to you and hopefully you'll be able to find your articles a lot faster.

7.21 Nursing Dissertation Tip 3 - choose a subject you're passionate about

My third tip is make sure you want to write about something you're really passionate about. You're going to be spending so long on this dissertation. Like I said, it is going to drain your soul, so you want it to be something really interesting, something juicy, something that you really want to look into, something that gets you excited.

So think about what you've done so far in your nursing career or experienced out there as a healthcare assistant, anything like that. Look at what you're really interested in, what you want to know more about, things that you can relate to, practice, anything actually that's going to help in your job role.

So look at where you want to work as well as a job. So you want to be doing maybe your dissertation on something GP related or cardiac related if you want to work in the cardiology world.

You want to do something about COPD or lung cancer or respiratory problems if you want to work on respiratory ward. You get my drift.

So if you're really interested in working in a particular area and that really fascinates you, do your dissertation on that because that's going to give you massive, massive brownie points when you go to your interview for your job and say, "Actually, I'm that interested in this area. I've done my dissertation on it." That's going to just blow their minds, I think.

So not only one, pick something that's going to be really interesting because you will enjoy writing it and researching it and doing it. Two, it's going to help you in your job if you pick something that relates to the job that you want to go into or the specialty you want to go into. That's going to be massive brownie points you and hopefully that helps.

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9.02 Nursing Dissertation Tip 4 - break the work down into manageable chunks

My next tip is break it down into small manageable sections because this is a lot of work. It's massive and if you just break it down into manageable bite sized steps, it's going to be so much easier.

Honestly, this is what I've done. I've done this for the whole year. I've just done all these sections bit by bit, stage by stage, and now I'm coming to the end.

I'm looking at it thinking, "Oh, I've actually done that. I've done that." I've actually not got as much as I thought that I had to do because I've been doing it as I've been going. It's been amazing.

And also set yourself goals with it as well. So for the past week, I wanted my final draft completed. It wasn't completed. I still had a conclusion to write. I still had to finish off my implementation of findings at the end and I still had a load of references to find.

So I really was panicking. I'm not going to lie, I was panicking. I wanted to get it done. So I really, really, really disciplined myself.

And this week, I dedicated two hours, some nights three hours, every single night for this whole week I've spent on this dissertation just going and over and over and over.

Getting those bits done. Chipping away at it all week. And then come Saturday, I opened my laptop. I went over it and thought, "Oh my God, I've got all this to do still. And I looked at it and I was like, Oh actually, I've actually done it all."

So I looked at it Saturday, I was like, "I think I'm finished. I think I've finished my final draft. All I need to do now is read through it and that's it. It's done." Beautiful. Yes.

So it really, really does help to go step by step, bit by bit, manageable chunks and you will get there. You'll look back at it and go, "Wow, I'm finished." And it'll be the best feeling in the world, I promise you.

And what really helps is having a calendar as well. So at our university they made it really easy for us. So they gave us an actual, it's like a schedule. So between January to March was all about finding your research, getting your 10 articles together. And then March till May was [inaudible] your articles.

And then May to so-and-so was doing your instruction and all of that.

They really broke it down amazingly for us. So if you can just get a calendar, split it all up into sections, month by month and get those bits done, you'll be well away. It's honestly a massive, massive help. Thank you, Birmingham City University! I'm not paid to say that, I promise.

11.31 Nursing Dissertation Tip 5 - look up EVERY word you don't understand

My next tip may be a little bit of a controversial one, I'm not too sure. But I'm going to say this anyway. Google is your best friend right now. If you're like me, I don't understand research. I am not a fan of research. I don't understand any of the terminology. I haven't got a clue. Still, we've done two modules now in research at university and I'm still like, I haven't got a clue what that terminology means. And I sit in and read articles and I'm like, I'm reading it, but it's not going in because I'm not used to this terminology. I'm not used to this way of writing. It's really bizarre. So Google did become my best friend. I Googled every single word that I didn't understand and it just really, really helped me

But there is also alongside this tip of Google being your best friend, also there's phrase banks as well, which really, really helped me. So it's really nice when you're trying to think of the words to structure your sentences so it sounds really good and it sounds researchy and academicy. And I'll put this phrase bank on the link below. So have a look at that. That's really, really massively helped me as well is the use of phrase bank and Google define.

12.44 Nursing Dissertation Tip 6 - understand how to conduct research

Another tip of mine is if you want some help on how to do a literature review, the books that we were told to use was Aviar 2014, something like How To Do A Literature Review, something like that. I'm really sorry if I've got that wrong. So buy Aviar 2014, if you Google that or come up.

Your university should have the ebook. Our university had the ebook and physical book if you want a physical book. And that just really, really helps as well to understand what qualitative research is, what quantitative research is, how to do the resource and methods and things like that. It's been really, really good.

There are other books as well out there, how to do literature reviews. Literally Google, like I said, and just have a look. It just helps I think with your understanding on how to do this because if you're like me and you've never done this before, haven't got clue about research, you're going to need something. Trust me.

So get reading. It is a lot of reading around dissertations. It is a lot of reading, researching. It does take up all of your hours of your life, unfortunately. But it has to be done if you want to pass this, unfortunately. But hopefully with the use of a good book, you will get in there, you'll get stuck in and you'll understand it a lot more.

14.05 Nursing Dissertation Tip 7 - make good use of your supervisor

And my final, last tip for you is make the most of your supervision or your supervisors. You will be designated a supervisor for your dissertation that you have one to ones with, that you can go and ask for help, you can email them. Make the most of that time with them.

So book in with them, have a one to one. Write down a list of everything you want to know, everything you want to ask so that you don't forget when you're there because that's something I do all of the time. I'll go to a doctor or something because I never go to the doctor, so I wait until I've got 101 things wrong with me. I'm a really bad patient and I'll go in and I'll forget.

So I learned to write down things whenever I go into meetings now or one-to-one for tutorials. So I have my list ready, I'm organized, I'm prepared, and you can just go over everything. But please make use of them. They are there to guide you, to help you. They don't want to see you fail. So just make the most of that time with your supervisors.

15.02 Conclusion

And that is pretty much all I've got to say. So I hope I've given you something that you can take away from this video that's going to help you out there. But I just wanted to say lastly, dissertation was something massive to me.

This was a massive, scary thing that I've dreaded for years and years. This goes back 10 years ago when I didn't want to do the degree. I wanted to do the diploma purely because I didn't want to face dissertation. I worried about it all through first year, in second year, like I said. I started looking into it because I wanted to be prepared. And now the time has come when I've actually finished my dissertation and I'm handing it in and it's just a weight, it's like a weight has lifted off me and I realize it's not that bad.

Okay, yeah, it's soul draining. It takes a long time. It's done. It's not actually as bad as I made out in my head back then. It is big. It's a big thing, dissertation. You're going to struggle at times. You're going to tear your hair out, like I said. You're going to put posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, saying you're really sick of seeing this dissertation.

But you know what? Looking back, it's not as bad as I thought and how it's done. I'm so happy. And it's just all those years of worrying has just gone.

So trust me, if I can do this dissertation, coming from a nonacademic background of failing my GCSEs, not doing anything. If I can get through this and write a dissertation, so can you. So come on, put on your positivity pants. You can do this. Get started. What are you waiting for? And good luck.

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About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

I am a student nurse studying at Birmingham City University. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs not only to help other student nurses, but also to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

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  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

I am a student nurse studying at Birmingham City University. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs not only to help other student nurses, but also to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.