NSCI 300: Neuroethics

Liaison librarian

  • mary.yearl [at] mcgill.ca (Email) 514-398-4475 x09847
  • McGill users only
  • Open access resource
  • Free resource
  • In-library-use only
  • Catalogue record

Starting your research

Exploring a topic? Need background information? Start your research with reference books to help you brainstorm, do preliminary research on potential areas of interest, and acquire background knowledge. Reference books can also point you to the main scholarly opinions or researchers in a field.

Handbook of neuroethics (2015). Edited by Jens Clausen and Neil Levy.

A great first source for background information. Contents include: Addiction and Neuroethics.- Brain Research and Ethics.- Developmental Neuroethics.- Ethical Implications of Brain Imaging.- Ethical Implications of Brain Stimulation.- Ethical Implications of Brain-Machine Interfacing.- Ethical Implications of Cell and Genetherapy.- Ethical Implications of Sensory Prostheses.- Ethics in Neurosurgery.- Ethics in Psychiatry.- Feminist Neuroethics.- Foundational Issues in Cognitive Neuroscience.- History of Neuroscience and Neuroethics.- Moral Cognition.- Neuroanthropology.- Neuroenhancement.- Neuroethics and Identity.- Neurolaw.- Neuromarketing.- Neuroscience, Free Will, and Responsibility.- Neuroscience, Neuroethics, and the Media Neurotheology.- Weaponization of Neuroscience.- What Is Neuroethics?

Oxford handbook of neuroethics (2011). Edited by Judy Iles and B.J. Sahakian.

A great introduction to a large variety of neuroethics topics.

Neuroethics: defining the issues in theory, practice, and policy (2006). Edited by Judy Iles.

A slightly older book, but still a good overview of the field of neuroethics including discussions of ethical issues around specific developments in neuroscience, and philosophical approaches.

International encyclopedia of ethics (2013). Edited by Hugh LaFollette.

Encyclopedia of bioethics (2005). Edited by Stephen Garrard Post.

Use a more general biomedical ethics encyclopedia to uncover background information on philosophical and ethical approaches.


Using the library catalogue and databases

Once you have a good grounding in the topic from your background reading, search the library catalogue and databases for more secondary sources.

Tips: use multiple databases (not all the same journals will be in every database) and do multiple searches with different synonyms and related keywords.

McGill Library catalogue: Searching here will find you both books and articles. Search by keywords and then you can refine your results on the results page using the lefthand menu.

Searching tips: Truncation symbol * (as in, neurosurge*) will retrieve catalogue records containing the words neurosurgery, neurosurgical, neurosurgeon, etc.
Quotation marks  "___" (as in "deep brain stimulation") will retrieve only catalogue records containing the full phrase within the quotation marks, instead of individual words.
Boolean operators AND and OR links your search terms in different ways. AND (as in, ethics AND dementia) will retrieve catalogue records containing both words, while OR (as in, ethics OR "public policy") will retrieve catalogue records with one or the other. Remember: AND will make your search narrower. OR will make your search wider. In the library catalogue and google searching, AND is implied (you don't need to type it out), but this isn't the case in all databases.

MEDLINE or PubMed: From the US National Library of Medicine, contains large collection of biomedical scholarly literature. (MEDLINE refers to the collection of material, while PubMed is one interface you can use to search the MEDLINE collection.

MEDLINE searching tips: click on "Additional Limits" or "Edit Limits" below the search box. On the next screen select "Bioethics" in the box "Subject Subsets."  That way when you day a search you can check off "Bioethics" and narrow down your results to only ethics literature.

PubMed searching tips: Add the phrase AND bioethics[sb] to any keyword when you search (for example, enter "brain imaging"
 AND bioethics[sb]
in the search box). This will search only within the subject of bioethics.

Web of Science:  A multi-subject database covering social studies, science, etc., with a good deal of ethics literature. You can search for articles by author, source title, subject, etc.

ETHXWeb: No longer updated! But a very complete database for ethics resources until 2009 (contains lots of different types of material including journal articles, legal decisions, books, bills, etc.) WIth this database, you will need to look up the article or journal title in the McGill Library catalogue in order to find the full text PDF.


Accessing resources at home

You have easy, at-home access to McGill's subscription resources through a proxy. In order to download PDFs from a database you must enter the database through the McGill Library webpage.

Tip: If you use Google Scholar, set it up with the McGill proxy so you can access items from the library. Go to: Settings --> Library Links --> search for McGill

Important Journals

BMC Medical Ethics
Journal of Medical Ethics
American Journal of Bioethics
Journal of Clinical Ethics
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy

Research Toolkit

Here are a couple more practical resources for help with writing skills, citing sources, and organizing research.

For citing sources and doing assignments: Here is a good website that provides lots of examples of formatting sources in APA style.

For managing research and citations: Programs such as Endnote or Zotero can store and organize your resources and format your citations for you. Check out A comparison of citation managers. Endnote software is free for McGill students and is supported by the library (meaning you can contact a librarian for help using the software if you need it).

For writing help: Make an appointment at the McGill Writing Centre. They can give you advice at any stage of your writing, from outlining to revising. Not sure how to cite your sources while avoiding plagiarism? Check out The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism (2010), by Colin Neville.


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