BIO 310 - Genetics Ethical Issues Presentation

last modified 2018-01-30T16:57:27-05:00

This guide will help you find quality information sources for your research in ethical issues in genetics as you prepare to appear before a Congressional Subcommittee to make your case as an expert in your field. You'll primarily be using online databases to find primary scholarly research, secondary/review articles, and legal cases/statutes.

Getting Started - Initial Research and Brainstorming your position

It's not always immediately obvious what we should be researching. It can help to be aware of what's in the news regarding a particular issue. Try:

  • News on the web - just be sure to use a reliable news source.
  • LexisNexis Academic - Search across many newspapers - local, national, and international.

An ethical perspective on a given issue includes an awareness of cause and effect, beneficiary and victim, cost and benefit, expected and unexpected results. Try to think about the immediate and secondary concerns surrounding your issue. The article A Framework for Thinking Ethically includes a subsection entitled A Framework for Ethical Decision Making, including guidance for evaluating alternative actions.

Take, for example, two perspectives on the following issue:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the worst Ebola crisis in history and is growing faster than it can be contained. Experimental DNA and Recombinant Virus vaccines have been under development for several years and have passed animal testing with reasonable success. Human vaccines have been developed rapidly but are only this month starting to enter small-scale clinical trials.

1. Director, Medicine Sans Frontiers: The urgency of the Ebola situation warrants immediate FDA approval and deployment of experimental human vaccines in Liberia and Sierra Leone to try to mitigate the spread of the virus before it becomes pandemic.

2. Director, FDA: A U.S. government agency should never permit experimental vaccines to be used outside of carefully regulated clinical testing, regardless of public need.

This issue is of great significance for the well-being of people in the immediate outbreak area and globally. Genetic research and intervention has shed hope on the situation, but the clock is ticking. What should Congress approve?

 Tarver Library has several mobile whiteboards. Pens and erasers can be checked out at the Circulation Desk. Have at 'em and brainstorm!

 Genetics brainstorm

Finding Scientific Articles

Your research for your presentation will require the use of one or more online databases to find articles. The following databases will help you to find authoritative and reliable sources of information.

Web of Science (Web of Knowledge/Thomson Reuters)
Web of Science is the best place for you to start your research for scientific articles, because it will help you discover articles in the most prestigious scientific journals. While there's no full text directly available here, there are links to help you find full text and/or request articles through Interlibrary Loan. Note that you can limit your search to specific article types (including review articles), date ranges, languages, etc. using the menu on the left once you have submitted your initial search.

Academic Search Complete (EBSCO)
This multi-disciplinary full-text database is quite strong in biology topics and includes a lot of full-text articles. Not everything here is full text, but there is a lot. Beware limiting your search to a 'review' because you may wind up with book reviews.

SciVerse (Elsevier)
Citations and some full text to high quality science journals published by Elsevier.
Access Alert! The key to knowing if you have access to a particular article is to note the small 'piece of paper' indicator next to each citation. If it's green, you're in business; if it's white you'll need to request it by Interlibrary Loan.

SpringerLink e-Journals
SpringerLink is the platform for accessing online journals and books published by Springer.
Access Alert! The absence of a padlock symbol means that full text is available.

Wiley Online Library
Wiley Online Library is a multi-disciplinary database that includes full-text journal articles and some full-text reference sources published by Wiley.
Access Alert! An open padlock symbol by an article title means that full text is available.

Search Strategies
  1. Use wildcards to account for varied word endings, e.g.
    • Vaccin* accounts for vaccine, vaccines, vaccination.
    • Ebola* accounts for Ebola and Ebolavirus.
    • If you go too far up the word stem you will get more irrelevant hits, for example vac* will capture vaccine and vaccines and vaccination, but would also capture vacation and VAC-45. In fact, vaccin* also captures vaccinia which is a virus, so we must pay close attention.
  2. Use synonyms or similar words/concepts with 'OR' between them, e.g. listing the species of the genus: Bundibugyo or Reston or Sudan or Taï Forest or Ebola - You're essentially saying, "any of these words are acceptable in my results." This is particularly helpful when you are looking to increase the number of results
  3. Use 'AND' to incorporate essential concepts, e.g. Ebola and vaccin* and efficacy - You're requiring that all of the words must appear in your results. It will reduce the number of results but increase the relevance.
  4. Sometimes a query combines all of these and can be quite substantial: (Bundibugyo or Reston or Sudan or "Taï Forest" or Ebola) and Ebola* and vaccin* and (DNA or genetic* or recombinant)
Getting the Full Text Article

Many articles are available in full text through our databases. Sometimes, however, a database will provide only citation information (article title, author, journal title, volume no., issue no., and page numbers) for the article that you'd like to read. If you are not sure about the components of a citation, check out the Anatomy of a Journal Citation guide.

If you're in a database and you've found a citation with no full text, look for the Find Full Text icon or link which will use our Link Resolver to speedily perform a search of all our electronic holdings for that article in full text.


1. If full text is available, you'll see a link to the place where it can be accessed:

FT Link

 2. Otherwise, you'll need to try the 'Search the Online Catalog' link to search our print inventory in the library catalog.

3. If we have no access to your article at Mercer, you can use the Interlibrary Loan link (which only shows when there is no online coverage available) to request that we order it. You must check both online and print coverage before requesting InterLibrary loan, because we won't order something we already have. The Interlibrary Loan form requires that you log in, but after that, most of it will be automatically completed for you.

Ask a librarian

If you need any help at all, please don't hesitate to schedule a research consultation for in-depth assistance. I'm at your service.

Bioethics Journals
Legal Research

To find U.S. Statutes and Cases, there are two useful sources:

  • Google Scholar Cases - select the Case Law radio button under the search box and you'll be searching for keywords in U.S. court cases.
  • LexisNexis Academic - select the Search by Content Type drop down and choose a case or statute/regulation type.
Citations and Style