How to write a concept analysis paper in nursing

Last Updated: 16 February 2023

How to write a nursing concept analysis paper

As a nursing student, a time comes when you are assigned a concept analysis paper assignment. While it is a challenging paper, if done well, you will enjoy writing it. In this article or guide both for nurse students and practicing nurses, we take you through how to write a concept analysis paper that scores an A.

This guide uses examples where necessary to make it possible to write a concept analysis paper, even if it is your first time. It has been developed by expert nursing writers who have written a handful of concept analysis papers for our ever-widening nursing student client base.

Students who have ordered model concept analysis papers have witnessed improved performance and knowledge. The samples are written from scratch and thus are 100% plagiarism-free. They are also custom-written based on research, citation of recent scholarly sources, and based on the instructions.

We also work with nurse educators to generate original, well-cited, and organized sample concept papers. Thus, as you read, know that the guide is compiled by experts in the nursing field, especially nursing research.

At this point, we only wish you all the best in every step you take and the decision you will make after reading this guide.

What is a concept analysis paper in Nursing?

Let's begin with the definition of a concept. Concepts are defined as basic blocks of the theory construction process. Concepts have defining attributes or characteristics that distinguish them from other concepts. They are mental constructions and attempts to order our environmental stimuli meaningfully.

Concept analysis refers to the examination of the structure and function of a concept. It is a formal, rigorous, and precise linguistic exercise used to determine the defining attributes of a concept.

A concept analysis paper analyzes a concept related to nursing education, administration/management, and practice.

A concept analysis essay, assignment, or paper entails a review of literature related to the study on the chosen concept from different disciplines. The review of literature helps in illuminating the meaning of the concept you have selected.

Importance of concept analysis

We have defined concept analysis as the process of examining or evaluating/deconstructing the essential elements that make up a concept. It is used to:

How long is a concept analysis paper?

In most cases, a concept analysis paper can be anywhere from 8 pages onwards. However, most of the students who have sought help with writing concept analysis papers from our website have ordered 10-15-page long papers. The length of the paper does not include the title page, reference list, and appendices.

When writing concept analysis papers, most instructors prefer developing the paper in three steps. The first one is usually the concept choice paper, which can be two pages long. Next, the instructor will give their feedback on the concept.

The second one is the concept analysis outline which includes the introduction through the literature review. Here the student uses peer-reviewed scholarly nursing sources styled in APA format. The concept analysis outline accounts for a portion or percentage of the grade of your concept analysis paper. The concept proposal and outline are treated as one by some instructors.

The second portion is the concept draft analysis which is a complete version of the concept paper. It is a rough or first draft that is almost a complete paper formatted in APA. The last one is the final paper which is worth the largest percentage of your concept analysis paper's grade.

Nine Steps for writing an excellent Concept Analysis Paper

Below are the preferred procedures for concept analysis widely applied in nursing schools and research.

1. Select a concept

You should be extremely careful when choosing a concept. It is crucial to choose a concept that you are interested in or associated with your work, has bothered you for a long time, or fits your specialization.

During concept selection, reflect on the area of interest or topic.

Whatever you do, choose a concept that is critical in your research program or one that can further theoretical development in your area of specialization or interest. Avoid trivial concepts that have no significant contribution to knowledge development.

2. Determine the purpose of the analysis

In most cases, you will determine the purpose of the analysis based on the assignment prompt from class. This step helps you to know where to focus and what to expect in the end. You are simply asking yourself, what is the reason for this analysis?

Understand the reason you are assigned the concept analysis. This process helps you build the defining attributes and discover the uses of the concept. During this early stage, you also distinguish between the ordinary language and the scientific language usage of the concept. Finally, you develop a preliminary operational definition, develop a research instrument or strategy, or add an existing theory.

3. Explore all the uses of the concept.

You can use dictionaries, colleagues, available literature, and thesaurus to identify as many uses as there is of your selected concept.  You should not limit yourself to an aspect of the concept. Instead, search every dimension of the concept outside nursing or medical literature. Consider the implicit and explicit uses of your concept. This is a section where you apply your research skills and read widely.

Consider the ordinary and scientific uses of your concept and refine the aspects of the concept to include in your analysis. For example, do you want to limit yourself to the aspects useful in scientific research, or do you want to consider all the aspects?

Considering all aspects of concept usage yields richer meanings. It should be your inclination at this point.

4. Conduct a Literature Review

As you explore the uses of the concept, you should review literature that helps you support or validate your ultimate choice of defining attributes.

The literature review also helps offer an evidence base for your concept analysis.  For instance, if you are talking about coping, consider its use in psychology, mental health, and other uses outside the mentioned areas.

Focus on literature outside of nursing science such as clinical sociology, community psychology, nursing technology, geriatrics, law, and social work. The literature review can be related directly to nursing research, or it can also combine knowledge or evidence from other fields.

5. Identify the characteristics of the concept

In this step, you should identify the key elements or the defining attributes of your chosen concept. Then, show the cluster of attributes that are associated with the concept.

Take notes on the characteristics that appear frequently. The defining attributes are the criteria you use to infer what the concept means and what the concept does not mean.

6. Identify the model case

Here is where you begin constructing your analysis model using cases.

A model case is an example of how the concept is applied or used, demonstrating the defining attributes of the concept. A model case should contain the key characteristics of the concept, the defining criteria, and at least one of the antecedents and consequences.

It is the real example or pure case of the concept. It is a pure exemplar or paradigmatic example. Model cases can be real-life examples in literature or constructed by you. They can as well be nursing examples or not, depending on you.

Nursing model cases help you understand the concept, yet sometimes they can obscure your objectivity about its meaning. Also, note that some concepts are easier to develop a case compared to others.

If you are familiar with a concept, the model case can come first during your analysis. You are sure about the instances of the concept. You can compare your experience to the defining attributes of the concept. Do a comparative reflection while working on your concept analysis paper. When writing the model case, be as paradigmatic as possible.

Below is an excerpt of a model case for the system-based practice concept: Here is an example for the concept of coping:

A young woman is walking along a street wearing high heels and a silk dress. On her briefcase is a pouch with an umbrella in it. As she walks, it begins to rain heavily. She takes out her umbrella and raises it. She begins to run but stumbles. She stops, removes her shoes quickly, and resumes running to the nearest shelter.

The model case above includes all three coping attributes, including covering, protecting, and rebalancing.

7.  Identify the alternative/additional cases such as borderline, contrary, invented, and illegitimate cases.

You also need to examine other cases when constructing your concept analysis model. Be extra careful because teasing out the defining attributes closely representing the concept might be challenging as they overlap with some related concepts.

Examining cases that are not similar to the concept but similar to it or contrary to it helps make better judgments about the defining characteristics that have the best fit.

These additional or alternative cases help you decide what fits to be a defining attribute for your concept and what does not count. The cases can be borderline, related, invented, contrary, and illegitimate

Borderline cases refer to the instances or examples that contain most of the defining attributes of the concept but not all of them. For example, borderline cases may contain most or all of the defining attributes but differ in one of them, such as intensity of occurrence and length.

These cases are inconsistent in some way with the concept under investigation. However, the cases help you see why the model is not inconsistent, which helps clarify your thinking about the defining attributes of the concept in question.

Related cases refer to the instances of the concepts related to the concept of choice but do not have all the defining attributes. They are like the concept being studied. They are also connected to the central concept. Related cases help understand how the concept fits into a network of concepts that surround the concept under examination. In the coping example, you can use conflict, achievement, adaptation, or stressful cases.

Contrast Cases are clear examples of not the concept. Contrary cases help to say something that is not the concept. In the case of pregnancy, a contrary case can involve concealed pregnancy that a woman is unaware of. The woman arrives at a hospital followed by unexpected birth as she is unaware of the antecedents.

Invented Cases refer to those cases that contain ideas outside our own experience. They read like science fiction. They are helpful when examining familiar concepts such as love. Not all concepts need invented cases. If a concept has clarity and the model case and other cases can help analyze the concept without confusion or ambiguity, there is no need for an invented case. You only do them for fun.

Finally, an illegitimate case gives an example of the concept term used improperly or out of context. For instance, in coping, the terms covering or protection are illegitimately used. Illegitimate cases are important when you come across a meaning that completely differs from all the others. You may have one or two defining attributes, but most of the attributes do not apply to the concept at all. For instance, attachment can mean bringing pieces of garment together using a sewing machine that contains only touch as a defining attribute and not other attributes.

8.  Identify the antecedents and consequences.

After identifying the additional or alternative cases, you then move to the antecedents and consequences. Unfortunately, most students often ignore these two steps or lightly handle them, eventually costing them grades.

The antecedents and consequences give valuable insights into the social contexts of the concept. Besides, you can use the insights to refine your defining attributes. However, the antecedents refer to the events or incidents that must take place or occur before the concept occurs. Therefore, the antecedents cannot be the defining attributes of a concept.

Antecedents of the concept of role strain can include role conflict, the rigidity of time and place, the amount of activity prescribed by some roles, role accumulation, and role demands must be met.

In attachment, the antecedents can include distinguishing external and internal stimuli. For pregnancy, antecedents can be fertility, ovulation, conception, gestation period, etc.

The consequences are the events or incidents that must occur as a result of the concept occurring. They are the outcomes of your chosen concept. Consequences of spirituality, for instance, can include religiosity, religiousness, creativity, peace, trust, self-transcendence, meaning in life, and health.

Antecedents help in identifying the underlying assumptions about the concept being analyzed.

9. Define the empirical referents

The last step when doing concept analysis is defining the empirical referents for the defining attributes. Here you ask yourself, how can we measure the concept of its existence in real-world settings?

The empirical referents refer to the categories or classes of actual phenomena that demonstrate the occurrence of a concept through its existence or presence. For instance, kissing is an empirical referent of the concept of affection. The ability to solve a problem in a stressful situation can be an empirical antecedent to the concept of coping.

Defining attributes and empirical referents are, in many cases, identical. However, there are instances when a concept is abstract, and so are its defining attributes. In this case, you have to define empirical referents.

Note that empirical referents are not tools to measure the concepts. Instead, they are a means to recognize or measure the defining attributes.

Empirical referents are helpful in the development of instruments as they are linked to the theoretical base of the concept. In addition, they contribute to the construct and content validity of the instrument.

The empirical referents also help clinicians have a clear, observable phenomenon that can help determine the existence of a concept with particular patients.

Related Article: Places to get free student textbooks.

Format of a Concept Analysis Paper in Nursing


The introduction of your paper informs the reader about the purpose of the paper. Stating the focus of the paper ensures that you attract the attention of your professor or instructor. Begin your concept analysis paper with a good hook.

You should then give a background of concept analysis. Here, you can define concept analysis according to the literature and explain its significance in nursing education.

Ensure that you define the term concept and explain why you chose the concept, its application to nursing research, education, practice, or administration.

Review of Literature

This is usually the largest section of your paper. It is where you identify the uses of the concept you have chosen. For example, if you have chosen concepts of caring, compassion, system-based practice, or love, you need to begin by providing a dictionary definition of your concept. You can also define it using lay sources and then academic or scholarly literature. Finally, check out the sample concept analysis paper by Metropolitan State University.

Review what the nursing literature related to your topic or concept says. You should then also review other two disciplines such as psychology, law, or biology.

Every literature used in the literature review section should be scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles or textbooks. First, write a brief summary of each of the sources and then link them in a manner to develop a synthesis or analysis.

For instance, if you are talking about compassion as a concept, you will need to review literature in nursing and two other disciplines, such as social work or psychology. Ensure that the sources you are using are published in the last five years for relevance and recency. However, when you refer to some landmark piece of literature such as a nursing theory or theorist, for example, Peplau's theory of interpersonal relationships or Jean Watson's theory of human caring, you can use landmark pieces of literature that are old.

Once you have your articles, write an in-depth synthesis of the sources. You can compare and contrast findings, strengthen the argument of one author or refute it with another author, or you can cleverly use the findings to express ideas related to the concept. You can write common findings, identify common themes, and synthesize the findings. A nursing literature review is not a list or a summary of a given topic.

Defining Attributes

Under defining attributes, you identify the defining attributes of your concept. This is the core of your concept analysis. But, first, you should identify the cluster of attributes frequently associated with the particular concept that give broad insights into the concept.

These are the characteristics of the concept, which you might discover as you read more on the concept or as you write your literature review. It is a list of characteristics or defining characteristics that are like differential diagnoses in medicine. They help you to identify the occurrence of a specific phenomenon that is differentiated from another related one.

For the best analysis, try to limit yourself to only a few attributes that differentiate the concept from other related concepts.

Definition of the Concept

Under this section, write the definition that harmonizes all the defining attributes of your chosen concept. Your definition should be written in one or two paragraph prose or narrative format.


Ensure that you have cases that demonstrate the designated types of cases for concept analysis: model, borderline, contrary, invented, and illegitimate cases.

Also, ensure that you justify choosing a case study or why it meets the criterion by providing a rationale. For instance, when writing the model case, begin by defining what the model case means as per nursing literature before proceeding to the model case and why it meets the criterion of a model case.

You should be very specific and follow the above example in each of the six cases of a concept analysis paper.

Model Case

The model case is a real-life example of the use of the concept. It can include the critical attributes of the concept. You should include the specific defining attributes of the model case to illustrate the concept.

The model case helps you to be sure that you have the correct defining attributes.

Borderline Case

Borderline cases include some of the defining attributes but not all defining attributes of the chosen concept. Ensure that each borderline case has an identified defining attribute written in parentheses.

Begin by defining what borderline case means, then contextualize your case.

In the case of the concept of pregnancy, this could include dealing with a concealed or ectopic pregnancy that a woman is unaware of and the related consequences and antecedents.

Related Case

The related cases refer to the cases that are only related to the concept but do not include the defining attributes. Although the related cases might include the defining attributes, they might also include other attributes commonly mistaken for the defining attributes of your concept of choice.

Related cases demonstrate ideas that are similar to the main concept but differ from them when examined thoroughly or closely. It is often a close examination that helps clarify what counts as defining attributes of the concept you are analyzing and what does not count.

 They should have names of their own and should be identified with their names in the analysis so that you make cogent decisions. You also get to give insights into the surrounding concepts.

Contrary Case

The contrary cases do not include any of the defining attributes of the concept.

Invented Case

Write an invented case as per the explanation we gave initially.

For the coping concept, this could be a fictional case. Think of visiting another planet. A person gets there, and their physiology changes. They begin to exhibit supernatural powers. For instance, they begin eating rocks to survive. This can be a good invented case for coping.

Illegitimate Case

Write an illegitimate as per the explanation we gave initially.

Antecedents and Consequences

In this section, the antecedents are the required elements of events that occur before the concept happens. On the other hand, consequences refer to the events or outcomes that occur after the concept occurs or materializes.

The two cannot be the same. Besides, they cannot be the concept itself. Rather, the two are events that take place before and after the concept materializes, respectively.

Empirical Referents

Under empirical referents, you define how your concept is measured. Therefore, it is vital to look for two research tools on the concept. Primarily, these should be based on primary studies.

Describe the definition of the concept as per the researcher and the purpose and structure of the measurement tool. You can also describe a study where the tool was used, including the samples, purpose, methods, and main findings. In most cases, this information comes from the literature review section, if you had envisioned it.


This is the second last part of the paper before the reference list. It becomes a third-last part if you have an appendices section for your concept analysis paper.

In this section, summarize the paper. Avoid giving any new information. There is no sequel, so do not leave your readers in suspense. Instead, use signal words that denote conclusion or closure to your paper.

Concept Analysis Paper Template

When assigned to write a 10-15 pages concept analysis paper, you can lay out the pages and word count as per the template below. We are assuming that by now

Examples of Nursing Concepts for Concept Analysis Papers

In most cases, nursing students write a concept analysis paper based on their area of specialization. For example, if a student plans to become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), they will choose a concept like family support.

Another student who intends to be a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (MHNP) can choose concepts related to dementia, Alzheimer's, Depression, Trauma-informed care, or PTSD among war veterans, etc.). at the same time, a student specializing in geriatric nursing could choose a concept like successful aging, aging in place, elderly abuse in the home care settings, end of life care, or any aging-related concept that is relevant to nursing practice.

Another student who pursues women health can choose concepts such as postpartum depression, postpartum scar tissue massage, exclusive breastfeeding, Restless legs syndrome during pregnancy, nutrition for pregnant women, UTI during pregnancy, postpartum nutritional supplements, Mommy brain, Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), postpartum stroke, Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP), Vasospasms, Raynaud's syndrome, Milk Bleb, Mastitis, or Perinatal maternal health; the list goes on and on.

If you do not intend to incline to the practice side, you can generally look at the nursing practice. For instance, you can write a concept analysis paper on caring in nursing.

This list of concepts can help you get concept analysis paper ideas. They are the best topics for your concept analysis paper.

Tips and Hints when writing a Nursing Concept Analysis Paper

Here are some helpful hints to use when writing your concept analysis paper. Remember, nursing writing takes a scientific writing approach. Therefore, it should be critical, structured, and well organized. Use the tips below to get the best grades for your paper.


To get this far, you now understand the steps of concept analysis. You can easily write a concept analysis essay, research paper, term paper, journal article, or white paper.

Our nursing writing service can come in handy if you need someone to help you write your concept analysis paper. We have professional writers who are qualified nurses themselves. They understand how to craft nursing papers that have zero plagiarism. Every paper is written from scratch. We custom write the nursing papers to make sure that you understand the content when you read the sample papers.

99% of our nursing clients have expressed their happiness with our service. For one, we allow you to communicate with your writer. You can choose a preferred writer. We also hold your confidentiality and privacy in high regard. You rest assured that the paper we give you will never surface online or anywhere.

Otherwise, good luck acing that concept analysis paper.