Helping Students Get Published

Helping Students Get Published: Tips from Journal Editors

A White Paper developed by the INANE Student Papers Work Group

Julia Muennich Cowell and Charon A. Pierson

Nurse Author & Editor, 2016, 26(4), 6


A recent study by editors of nursing journals revealed mounting concern about problems with manuscripts submitted by students. Editors reported that writing was an issue and manuscripts often lacked detail, were not well organized, and sources were often not identified. Submissions were not appropriate for the journal (Kennedy, Newland, & Owens, 2016). The study also revealed that responding editors accept the responsibility for advancing authorship skills among future nursing leaders but call on faculty and other mentors to partner in the endeavor. The Student Paper Work Group (Work Group) of the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE) developed this White Paper to assist faculty and mentors in guiding students towards successful publication.


Members of INANE gather annually in person and communicate regularly electronically. A recurring problem discussed over the years has been a concern about scholarly writing among students. Because of the concern, INANE members have prepared numerous publications that are available at Nurse Author & Editor (About Nurse Author, n.d.) as guides to scholarly writing. Informal sharing at the INANE meeting in 2014 led to the formation of the Work Group. Discussions revealed that the issue was complicated by the increasing number of academic programs requiring students to submit manuscripts for publication as a requirement of their academic programs.  The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Essentials includes outcome expectations that demonstrate knowledge dissemination in both the Masters Essentials (AACN, 2011) and Doctoral Essentials for Advanced Nursing Practice (AACN, 2006). In addition to the AACN requirements, specialty organizations such as the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) have built oral and written communication into expected graduate competencies (Thomas et al., 2014). To meet the AACN Essentials and specialty requirements, colleges of nursing have included various requirements ranging from submission of query letters to full manuscript submission.

The focus on clinical nursing communication such as record keeping does not promote writing skills for scholarly publication. Faculty who guide student authors may not have experience in publishing. Since the AACN Essentials documents focus on outcomes and there are no required curricular threads for scholarly writing, faculty are responsible for guiding development of students’ skills in writing for publication. Thus, the Work Group aims were to clarify issues around student publications, disseminate the findings concerning the issues, and develop a resource to assist faculty.


The Work Group conducted a survey of nursing editors in 2015 to specify issues associated with student paper submission. The survey contained 3 Likert-type questions identifying: 1) frequency of student submissions, 2) type of academic programs represented among the submitting students and 3) a listing of problems that editors experienced with the submitted papers. The results of the survey were recently published (Kennedy, Newland, & Owens, 2016).

There were optional open-ended questions to expand on the survey, gathering respondents’ descriptions of problems and opinions about the requirement of submitting manuscripts as part of a program. Responding editors were also encouraged to identify their practice of requiring authors to report if the submission was a course or program requirement. Another open-ended question was designed to ascertain the kinds of responses provided to student authors whose manuscripts were rejected. Respondents were also asked what role they thought faculty should play if manuscript submission was a requirement and finally, to list any issues that were not included in the survey (Kennedy, Newland, & Owens, 2016).

Resource Development

The responses to the open-ended questions provided some clear direction to guide development of a resource for nursing faculty and mentors guiding students’ publication efforts (see Table 1). Six themes emerged from the content analysis and were used as a guide to develop this table of resources to assist faculty in guiding students through assignments related to scholarly writing. Submissions often failed to follow author guidelines; in fact, many editors reported that they often received academic papers that were not adapted to the manuscript format. Student submissions had common characteristics such as excessive use of quotes and the presentation of theories or conceptual frameworks that were not operationalized or guiding the work. Literature reviews were found to lack synthesis or narrative describing how the review could advance practice. Manuscript organization and clarity were a problem in many cases. Small sample size was also described as a common problem in research papers.


The results of the survey and responses to questions illustrated the need for faculty resources to guide assignments related to students’ scholarly publication.  Several broad categories were underscored. First is the issue of students with poor, general writing skills accepted into programs where writing for publication is an expected outcome. To address this issue, faculty must construct experiences and assignments that develop basic skills such as sentence and paragraph construction, organization of thoughts into coherent arguments, and improving the ability of students to follow guidelines for submitting papers to scholarly publications. Basic resources for such strategies include using online writing laboratories (OWLs) and other existing university programs designed to help students who struggle with writing or English language proficiency.

A second general problem identified relates to the differences between writing for the faculty audience in a class assignment and writing for professional peers in scholarly literature. Faculty should not add requirements to assignments that confuse students, such as requiring a theoretical framework if one is not indicated in the proposed article. A general resource for helping students learn how to approach writing for professional journals is the free web-based course, Writing for Professional Journals, at the University of Utah. Faculty can download the entire course as an export package and include it in their course materials. The course is licensed under a Creative Commons Non-commercial Share Alike license.

A final general problem is related to ethical and professional conduct, which can be addressed in a variety of ways. Faculty can create ethics modules and professional conduct exercises throughout the curriculum in several different classes. Many survey respondents believed faculty who assign projects, such as submission of an article to a journal, have ethical and professional responsibilities to mentor students appropriately so that students will have a positive experience with scholarly publishing. Editors should not be considered the arbiters of student projects either by providing responses to submission by a certain date, or by acting as the first reviewers of students’ scholarly work. Through the careful creation of writing assignments, students can learn how to write and be more successful in producing scholarly work for the broader nursing community.

Nursing journal editors have experience in scholarly writing and many are or have been nursing faculty or clinical nursing leaders with scholarly publication experience.  Based on scholarly publication experience and the results of the work of the INANE Student Paper Work Group, Table 1 provides resources addressing a myriad of publication problems that faculty face in working with student authors. Table 2 is a listing of additional resources, including books and websites, with a particular focus for nurse authors.

Click here to access Table 1
Click here to access Table 2


  1. About Nurse Author & Editor. (n.d.)
  2. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006). The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. Retrieved from
  3. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2011). The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing . Retrieved from
  4. Kennedy, M., Newland, J., & Owens, J. (2016). Findings from the INANE survey on student papers submitted to nursing journals. Journal of Professional Nursing. ePub ahead of print DOI:
  5. Thomas, A., Crabree, M.K., Delaney, K., Dumas, M.A., Kleinpell, R., Marfell, J…Wolf, A. (2014). Nurse practitioner core competencies content: A delineation of suggested content specific to NP core competencies. Retrieved from:


We thank the members of INANE who participated in the survey, provided feedback on this white paper, and the INANE program committee for the opportunity to exhibit a preliminary version of these ideas at the INANE Annual Meeting in London, August 2016. We also acknowledge the work of the writing group who prepared a formal manuscript from this research for publication in the Journal of Professional Nursing: Maureen Shawn Kennedy, Jamesetta Newland, and Jacqueline Owens who are also members of the INANE Student Paper Work Group.

About the Authors

Julia Muennich Cowell PhD, RN, APHN-BC, FAAN, is Executive Editor, The Journal of School Nursing and Professor Emeritus, Rush University College of Nursing, Chicago, IL.

Charon A. Pierson, PhD, GNP, FAAN, FAANP, is Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and Secretary, Council and Trustee Board for the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

NAE 2016 26 4 6 Cowell Pierson

Copyright 2016: The Authors. May not be reproduced without permission.
Journal Complication Copyright 2016: John Wiley and Son Ltd