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Medical Ethics

Finding Medical Ethics Information

Finding information to support your enquiries about medical ethics is similar to finding material to support your pre-clinical and clinical questions.

Major medical databases such as Pubmed or Medline, nursing and allied health (CINAHL) and psychology (psycINFO) are all useful for finding articles on ethical topics, depending on the specifics of your topic. See the Databases & Journals tab for more suggested resources. You may also like to explore the NLM Bioethics Information Sources.

When identifying search terms, consider the major concrete elements of your topic, but be flexible. You will pick up ideas for search terms through your initial reading.  Use database records for useful articles - open them, then look at whether additional terms have been used.  Watch this video for some suggestions.

Books and reference material are good for developing your underlying knowledge, including an overview of ethical theories.

Developing a basic knowledge of your topic first could help you to understand articles more easily.

Broader sources of information such as reference material (encyclopedias, specialist dictionaries) and textbooks are useful to help build your base level of knowledge and to answer the more general questions that you may have.

This material can also be helpful in introducing you to the various philosophical theories that underlie your ethical issues.

Library Search is a good search tool for an initial exploration of the Library’s collections, including both books and articles. Use the limits to the left of the screen to limit to books and e-books.

Search Planner: finding medical ethics information

Download this Search Planner, and in conjunction with this Medical Ethics Library Resource Guide, identify useful resources and develop searches to uncover useful references for your medical ethics assignments and knowledge gaps.



Adding the term 'ethic*' or 'bioethic*' will help focus your search

When the truncation symbol (*) is added to a truncated word, the database will search for alternative endings to that word, broadening the search.

Searching with precision: using subject headings in database searching

Sometimes, it can be really difficult to put your finger on a useful search term.

Subject headings (like MeSH in MEDLINE or CINAHL Headings in CINAHL) can be really useful in these instances.

They're a little like #tags in social media, but are consistent - the same term is used across a database for a particular concept.

They are often very specific terms, and they avoid the need to consider synonyms and alternative spellings in your search terms, because they're used consistently to index records across the whole database.

Using MeSH [MEdical Subject Headings] (or equivalent subject heading list) for precise searching

A search on a subject heading will retrieve all records in the database indexed with this term, regardless of the terms used in the article - it can be a much more thorough, yet focused search than a keyword or natural language search.  Use the 'search history' to build your search, concept by concept, then combine the terms as relevant.

View this video for tips on searching using MeSH in Medline/ CINAHL headings in CINAHL. Note: in our version, access MeSH by clicking on 'MeSH 2021' in the menu across the top of MEDLINE Complete. In CINAHL, this will be CINAHL Headings, and in APA PsycInfo, it will be the Thesaurus. Although subject headings vary from database to database the principle of how they work remains the same.