Generating Ideas
for Cases

Cases can address a variety of topics.
See the following sources for extended examples.
Course Elements
& Current Events
Other Types
of Records
Broadcast News  See Fleaing Louisiana, based on an NPR story on the lack of frost in Louisiana for five years.
Local Events See the case on genetically engineered StarLink corn in the electronic "newspaper" LifeLines OnLine Spring 2001. Farmers in nearby Iowa grew the majority of the StarLink variety in the United States.
Personal Experiences See the European Starlings and Woodpeckers case based on the author's birding observations of local wood and farm lots.
Learning Objectives & Curriculum Standards See The Nancy Creek Challenge written by a group of K-12 teachers to address new Georgia state standards.
Text Topics  See My Twin Sister using a teen's letter and her concerns as a novel way to introduce meiosis.
Lab Exercises See the Steroids  case and its associated reproductive physiology lab utilizing sea urchin sperm and eggs.
Computer Software Click on  LifeLines OnLine Spring 2001 and read the Biospherians story at the bottom inspired by the modeling software the teacher wanted to use.
Assessments See the pre-assessment strategy from How Now Mad Cow that was written to test prior knowledge of proteins and prions, a microbiology assessment activity for Souvenirs, and the writing assignment Fractured News.
An Element in a Thematic Course See the 1999 Case Archives of the Global Seminar for five cases related to sustainable food systems.
Consider applications of the discipline's knowledge as another way to generate ideas for cases. The following chart shows some ways that anatomy and physiology and chemistry concepts are applied.
Use or Profession
Topics / Concepts

Athletic training/

professional athletes diet and training (think of a sport)


muscle A&P, neuromuscular interactions, homeostasis, development

see above under medicine.

Camping equipment

design of products, esp. for withstanding temp. extremes



Teaching about bodies to young and old

Lamaze classes

Watching children’s physical abilities

Any A&P topic

Reproduction and birth, embryology


Food science

Additives and metabolism

Synthetic fats

Digestion, nutritional aspects as relate to physiology of nerves, muscles, etc.

Digestion problems with synthetic fats.


blood analyses
hair, skin, etc.

Blood structure /function, immunology


Physical requirements of certain jobs

biomechanics, musculo-skeletal topics, reproduction topics


Discrimination cases based on physical differences (e.g., women as firefighters)

Other legal cases with A&P elements (NIOSH cases, tobacco)

strength and muscular arrangements


leads into pathology, but through the lawyer’s door.


extreme exertion (e.g., basic training, paratroopers)

homeostasis at high altitude, in dehydration


Drug action

Drug design

Antiaging, antibalding

Quackery (debunk via A&P)

Physiological basis/effects of a variety of drugs on growth, development or physiology

Design a drug to enhance or inhibit various functions (e.g., beta blockers, antidepressants, hormones)

Space science

John Glenn 1963 and 1998

Mir astronauts

Bones and muscles, etc. Physiology in space.

Use or Profession


Chemistry Topics/concepts

Industry Petroleum distillation Glass productionCleaning supplies Organic chem., separation, distillation, mixtures and solutions, using the properties of a substance to separate itSilicates, oxides, combustion, change in stateFluorescence
Pharamaceuticals New drug development Drug Mechanism of action Organic chem., reaction mechanisms, biochem.
Agri-business Herbicides/PesticidesSoil chemistryFertilizers


metabolism and its interruption,
Food science Tastes

Nutritional content

Properties of the food (e.g. emulsions, preservatives)


Energy content of food molecules, bonds, change of state, acids/bases.
Health physiology e.g. blood chemistry, kidney function Nuclear medicine X rays Metabolic chemistry

acid-base, buffers, etc.

isotopes, radiation, nuclear chemistry


Environmental chemistry cleaning air

cleaning water

solutions, mixtures, fluids, separations based on chemical properties
Materials science superconductors electrical properties, heat capacity,
Space science dessication


water as fuel


Boyle’s law

bonds and energy

Other types of records that can be used to develop cases

  • Client or patient records, rewritten into the more story-like narrative style of a teaching case
  • Video tapes, either as "trigger tapes" or as subject matter/dilemma presentation
  • lab results
  • history of science
  • published research reports
  • published science articles from newspapers or magazines
  • literary sources
  • government decisions and reports
  • legislation

LifeLines OnLine Home

This material is based on an excerpt from Waterman and Stanley "Investigative Case Based Learning,"
a text module in the BioQUEST Library V, John Jungck and Virginia Vaughan (Eds) Academic Press, 2001.