Writing essays is an integral part of nursing education. Nursing students are routinely required to compose argumentative, reflective, research, long and short essays. Proper formatting for nursing school essays is crucial for effectively communicating ideas and earning good grades. This detailed article will explore the fundamentals of formatting for various nursing essay types.

General Formatting Guidelines for Nursing Essays

Some universal formatting guidelines apply to most nursing course essays:

Select an Appropriate Font and Font Size

  • Use a standard, easy-to-read, professional font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Avoid 
  • Using fancy, cursive, or unconventional fonts.
  • Use a 12-point font size throughout the essay. 12-point size is the standard and preferred choice for most academic papers at the university level. 
  • Be consistent with the font style and size throughout the essay, including titles, headings, and body text.

Use Proper Margins

  • Set 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, left, and right sides of the page. The 1 inch space provides sufficient white space without making the essay appear spaced out.
  • Margins should be consistent on all pages of the paper. Avoid widening or tightening the margins unnecessarily at any point.

Apply Double Line Spacing

  • Use double spacing uniformly between each line of text in the essay. Double spacing enhances readability and allows room for instructor comments.
  • Do not use single, 1.5, or triple spacing unless explicitly allowed or instructed to do so. Keep line spacing consistent.

Number All Pages

  •  Be sure to number every page in your nursing essay consecutively starting with the number 1 on the first page. 
  • Page numbers should appear in the top right corner of the page. Centered page numbers can also be acceptable in some cases.

Include Relevant Headings and Subheadings

  • Use headings and subheadings relevant to the nursing essay topic to organize the structure and clearly indicate the focus of each major section.
  • Make headings stand out by making them bold or slightly increasing the font size. Do not overdo formatting with multiple fonts and sizes.
  •  Headings should have parallel structure, meaning headings at the same level use similar grammatical structures.

Prepare a Separate Title Page 

  • Have a separate title page as page 1, including the paper’s full title, your name, university name, course name and code, professor name, and date.
  • The essay title should be centered and about 1/3 down the title page. Follow instructor guidelines for any additional details to include on the title page.

APA Format Guidelines for Nursing Essays

The American Psychological Association (APA) format is commonly required for different types of nursing essays, especially research papers, literature reviews, and other scholarly manuscripts. Here are key guidelines for APA formatting in nursing courses:

Include a Running Head

  • Per APA style, place a running head at the top left corner of every page. The running head is a shortened version of the essay title in all capital letters.
  • For essay titles longer than 50 characters, use the first 1-2 words as the running head. Running heads should not exceed 50 characters.

Add an Abstract Summary Page 

  • For research papers and literature reviews, APA requires including a 100-150 word abstract as page 2 of the essay that summarizes the key points. Center the word “Abstract” at the top of the page.
  • The research paper abstract should touch briefly on the research topic, methods, findings, and conclusions without including citations or headings.

Use APA Guidelines for In-Text Citations

  • When citing sources in APA essays, use in-text parenthetical citations with the author name(s) and year of publication. Ex: (Smith, 2020). 
  • If directly quoting, also include the page number. Ex: (Smith, 2020, p. 152). 

Include a Reference Page

  • End the essay with a References page listing every source cited within the essay in alphabetical order by authors’ last names. Apply hanging indentation.
  • Format reference entries using APA style guidelines for author names, titles, publication dates, etc. Follow examples in the APA manual.

MLA Style Guidelines for Nursing Essays

The Modern Language Association (MLA) format is occasionally prescribed for nursing program essays, particularly in humanities courses. Key MLA formatting rules include:

Use a Header with Your Last Name and Page Number

  • Per MLA style, place your last name and the page number in every page’s top right corner header. Ex: Smith 1
  • The header should be 0.5 inches from the top and flush with the right margin. Page numbers begin on the first page of text.

Apply MLA In-Text Citation Guidelines

  • For MLA in-text citations, briefly, credit sources using the author name and page number(s) in parentheses. Ex: (Smith 152-154).
  • If the author’s name is already used in the sentence, only include the page citation in parentheses. Ex: Smith argues this point on pages 152-154.

Include a Works Cited Page 

  • End MLA essays with a Works Cited page where all sources used in the essay are alphabetically listed by the authors’ last names. 
  • Entries should follow MLA guidelines for formatting author names, titles, publishers, dates, and other elements. Consult the MLA Handbook.

Chicago Style Guidelines for Nursing Essays  

Chicago-style formatting is less common for nursing courses but may be required for certain assignments. Key Chicago style rules:  

Use Footnotes or Endnotes to Cite Sources

  • Instead of in-text citations, Chicago style uses numbered footnotes or endnotes within the essay to cite sources. These appear at the bottom of the page.
  • Place the numbered footnote/endnote after the sentence where the source is referenced. The first footnote uses the full citation, subsequent citations use shortened versions.

Include a Bibliography Page

  • Following the essay, include a Bibliography page where all sources used in footnotes/endnotes are provided in alphabetical order. 
  • Format Bibliography entries using Chicago guidelines for each source type. The Bibliography page replaces a reference list.

Format the Title Page

  • Per Chicago style, center the title 1/3 down the title page. Include course, instructor, and date information below the title.
  • The title page goes on its own separate page as page 1 of the essay. Use 12 point Times New Roman font.

Final Thoughts on Nursing Essay Formatting 

Properly formatting nursing essays according to the prescribed style guidelines is an indispensable academic skill. Always clarify which format your professor prefers and adhere to the rules for font, margins, spacing, headings, citations, and references pages. Applying consistent formatting will polish your papers, demonstrate your scholarly competence, and help earn you higher marks. With practice, nursing essay formatting will become second nature.

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