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“Get a good idea, and stay with it.

Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right.”

–Walt Disney


  • A three-step process can help you develop your topic.

  • Mind maps and summary statements are useful for focusing and evaluating a topic.

  • Use author guidelines to develop specifications for your article.

Every good article starts with a good idea. Finding the right topic, and then refining and defining it, makes writing easier. The right topic serves as the nervous system for your article; just as your brain, spinal column, and nerves keep you balanced, the right topic keeps you steady on your writing course and guides the entire creation of your article. This chapter describes a three-step process for developing a topic: finding your topic, refining your topic, and defining your topic.


A question first-time authors might ask is simply what should I write about? Picking a topic requires thought and effort. If you plan to publish a study you just completed or you want to write about a recent important clinical experience on a topic you have expertise in, you have an easy answer. But what if you don’t have a specific idea? The good news is that ideas are all around you: in your life, your practice, the literature you read—even your local news.

Think about how you would handle an emergency situation during your everyday practice. It’s automatic, right? First, you assess the situation. The same applies to writing: Assess your motivation for writing an article. When you write down your thoughts and ideas in an organized and systematic fashion, it causes you to more fully and coherently describe them. Just as in nursing, practice makes perfect. The more times you work through the exercise of defining your idea, the easier it will become.

Use the questions shown in Figure 2.1 (these questions are described in detail in the following sections) to conduct your assessment. Write your responses to each question in the space provided.


Writing assessment worksheet.

Why Should I Write an Article?

As a practitioner or expert in your field, writing and sharing your ideas with professional colleagues can be a good way to increase your professional recognition, career opportunities, and advancement. You will also gain personal satisfaction and improve your confidence. We need to share our knowledge with our colleagues so we can learn from each other and build the best evidence to improve patient care, further validating the nursing profession and what nurses do day to day. In essence, we have a duty to disseminate our knowledge.

Now that you are thinking about disseminating knowledge, consider what ...

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