Getting Started

Determine your group role

Your group role influences the kind of research you do. In each case, your research should focus on the literature most relevant to the academic discipline relevant to that role. 

Physicians are experts in the medical aspects of the case. They are particularly knowledgeable about diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment and are also directly responsible for obtaining informed consent. The physician’s research should thus focus on the literature discussing these things. Most of the articles cited by the physician should be empirical/scientific articles (either original research or reviews) that present data related to the case. 

“Nurses” or “allied health” are experts in the practical aspects of care. This includes managing care for patients experiencing various symptoms from disease and also any side-effects or complications with treatments. Because nurses work so closely with patients, they are also experts in the psychological aspects of the case, both for patients themselves and considering how family and social relations may affect the case, etc. The sources cited by nurses should mostly be empirical/scientific articles or practical guidelines that are relevant to the case.

“Philosophers” are experts in analysis and argumentation. For this project, philosphical expertise is relevant for defining basic concepts involved in the case (such as autonomy, health, function), and also for assessing the moral principles and arguments that may help to resolve the main ethical issue.  The sources cited by philosphers should mostly be normative articles (i.e., prescriptive) or otherwise philosophical in nature. One way of narrowing your search to philosophical articles is by looking for terms like “philosophy,” “ethics,” or “bioethics” in the journal title (For example, American Journal of Bioethics contains many philosophical articles). 

“Editors” are generalists that pull all the aspects of the case together. They should find 5 articles that they think will help them to write about the “interdisciplinary” aspects of the case. These articles can be about any relevant aspect of the case—scientific, practical, or ethical. Searching for “interdisciplinary” as a keyword, along with other terms relevant to your case, may turn up some articles that are directly relevant to your report. Although the editor role has more flexibility in the kinds of sources used for the report, editors are responsible for thinking about the contribution of all three roles (philosopher, doctor, nurse) for finding an interdisciplinary resolution to the case. So it may be helpful to try to find a mix of normative and empirical articles, or even to find some articles that discuss both philosophical and scientific aspects of an issue or case in an interdisciplinary way.

Get acquainted with your case

Read your case carefully and think about what kinds of research might be relevant to resolving the main ethical problem in your case. If you do not understand some of the terms or concepts in the case, you might consult a medical dictionary (such as WebMD) for definitions or more information.