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SSI2-148: Medical Narratives

Multidisciplinary Inquiry

Medical narratives invite analysis from more than one academic discipline. Yet what is an academic discipline?  Atlhough definitions vary, most scholars agree that an academic discipline shares the following characteristics:

  • A specific focus of study;
  • A specific research methodology;
  • An accumulated body of knowledge that all practitioners share;
  • Theories or concepts that help organize the shared body of knowledge;
  • Specific vocabulary used to describe the shared knowledge;
  • Usually, the discipline is taught in colleges and universities;
  • New disciplines emerge when ruptures, disagreements, or new information can no longer be contained within the "old" discipline.

What do you think are the advantages of academic disciplines? Might there be any disadvantages?

Most academic disciplines have one or more subject databases that index and disseminate scholarly work within that discipline. It is impossible to understate how important it is to search disciplinary databases when doing research. (In the medical sciences, for example, failure to search the relevant databases prior to a clinical trial is malpractice and can result in severe federal sanctions.)

At Collins Library, the main subject databases for each academic discipline taught at the university can be found under the "Articles" page on each subject guide.

Exploring Academic Disciplines

During this activity, you will have the opportunity to work more closely with an academic discipline as you explore scholarly perspectives on medical narratives.

1. You will be assigned to one of four groups and each group will explore one of the following groups of academic disciplines:

  1. Humanities and the Arts
  2. Behavioral and Life Sciences
  3. STEM (Science, technology, engineering, math)
  4. Social Sciences


2. After joining your group, search one of the listed databases and, as a group, respond to the following questions in the class Google doc (the document will open in a new window):

Database Searching

  • Which database did you choose to search? 
  • Run a search for "bipolar disorder" in that database, limit to "peer-reviewed" (if possible), and scan the first page or two of the results. What aspect of "bipolar disorder" is being discussed? 
  • What are the subject headings for the various scholarly articles and books in your results?  
  • If you wanted to try to find additional relevant results, what search terms besides "bipolar disorder" might you try to use?
  • How could these sources help us analyze a primary source like Ellen Forney's Marbles?
  • How can you get to the full text of articles?
  • How can you save an article for later or send it to yourself?
  • Are there any tools to help you cite articles?
  • Anything else interesting (or frustrating?) about the database?


3.  Discuss your findings with your group members.  After 15 minutes, we will come back together as a class and each group will have an opportunity to share their findings.


Behavioral & Environmental Sciences

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math)

Social Sciences