Adverse effects of dexamethasone on children with asthma

Our umbrella topic is “Toxicology of Pharmaceuticals”, from which you need to choose a topic dealing with human health, industrial health or environmental health.  This means we’ll be dealing with the adverse (or side) or deleterious effects of pharmaceutical chemicals (not the effects they are prescribed for!) and the toxicological issues associated with them.

How should you go about choosing a topic?  Many of your ideas so far have been good…  and would be perfect f you were going to write a dissertation!  In other words, they are way too broad.  Remember, this is a small review paper, 6-8 pages with 10+ sources.  If you use a search engine on your topic and you get hundreds of potential research articles, then your topic needs to be narrowed down.  If, on the other hand, you put your topic into a search and find less than five articles, then it’s too narrow and will need to be expanded a bit.

So here are some hints for developing your topic.  Start with “I am interested in the adverse effects of [pharmaceutical drug X] on [examples: human health or industrial workers or the aquatic environment]”.  For example, here’s what I might like to do my paper on:  the adverse effects of troclosan (in waterless hand cleaners) on the aquatic environment.  If I was to start my search using “triclosan” and “aquatic environment” as my keywords, I’d get over a thousand articles.  Way too many to sort through!  So I need to narrow this down to something like the adverse effects of triclosan on frog embryos.  Now I have less than 50 papers to choose from.  There’s my paper topic.

Remember that you’ll be studying the toxicological effects of a pharmaceutical chemical (referred to as a stressor) on some aspect of human or environmental health (referred to as a target).  Stressors can be narrow (a specific chemical or metabolite or breakdown product) or wide (a class of chemicals, etc.) and targets can be narrow (a species or life stage of a species or organ/system or specific disease or specific occupation, etc.) or wide (humans in general or terrestrial environment or rivers or air, etc.)

Therefore please consider topics for your paper using one of the following combinations:

Adverse effects of [a specific pharmaceutical stressor] on a [broad target]
Adverse effects of [a class of pharmaceutical stressors] on a [specific target]
Adverse effects of [a specific pharmaceutical stressor] on a [specific target] – BEST!!
As you are researching your topic, be sure to focus on obtaining articles that will provide you with the information needed to meet the requirements of the assignment (see syllabus).  I will post a copy of a SETAC (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) Technical Issue Paper (TIP), which is a good example of the type of document your review paper should be: concise, informative, based on current science.  And while you’re at it, reading this SETAC TIP will be a good way to start the course!


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