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Guidelines for Authors


1. Narrative Symposia

Narrative symposia will consist of approximately 12 – 18 personal stories followed by 3-4 commentary articles. Topics of forthcoming symposia will be announced on the NIB website, allowing individuals to submit a brief (300 word) abstract of proposed personal stories or their credentials for writing a commentary on the stories dealing with the subject matter.

a. Personal stories are short autobiographical essays (4 – 8 double-spaced pages or 1,000 – 2,000 words) that describe personal experience with the symposium topic. The primary purpose of these stories is to provide rich descriptions of personal experience. Personal stories should give readers a sense of what it is like to experience the subject matter under consideration. Good personal stories will be true (accurate portrayals of subjective experience), interesting, and easy to read. Depending on the symposium subject, ideal authors of personal stories may include patients, researcher participants, health care workers, researchers, or others. Symposium editors will provide authors of personal stories with further guidance regarding “prompt” questions that should be addressed in the narratives. Personal stories will be followed by Commentaries. Individuals who wish to submit a personal story in response to a symposium announcement should email the editorial office (narrativebioethics@gmail.com) a 300-word summary of the story they wish to submit. Ordinarily, individuals will be informed within four weeks whether they are invited to submit a full story.

*Story authors will not be given the opportunity to review commentaries before publication. The commentary articles (descried below) represent the views of the commentators, and may not represent the views of the journal, the press, or the story authors.

b. Commentary articles analyze the narrative data shared in the personal story articles, identifying and exploring themes, contrasts, patterns, or new insights. Commentaries should relate lessons learned from the stories to current debates in bioethics by citing scholarly or policy literature. While Narrative Inquiry In Bioethics is not dedicated to any one particular methodology, some questions commonly asked in narrative, case study, and phenomenological analysis are relevant to analyzing or commenting on the collection of narratives:

  • Are there “significant statements” that provide insight into the subject matter?
  • Are there dichotomies within stories?
  • Are the stories surprisingly silent on any matters?
  • What themes or clusters of meaning emerge across the stories?
  • Is your own analysis or interpretation of the stories shaped by any compelling personal experiences or by relevant literature?
  • Do the stories challenge any prevailing assumptions or paradigms for understanding the subject matter?
  • How might lessons learned from the Narratives inform theories, policies, or practices?

Commentaries should be between 2,000 – 3,000 words or 8 – 12 double-spaced pages.

Click to see a list of Forthcoming Symposia.

2. Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research Articles

NIB welcomes submitted papers that report on qualitative and mixed methods research studies, including ethnographic, interview, focus group, observational, mixed methods, and related studies in the areas of bioethics, human research ethics, or health care ethics. A variety of approaches to inquiry are welcome, including narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnographic, and case study approaches.We only publish qualitative articles that provide excerpts (key quotes or exemplar) representing themes. We provide generous word limits to permit this. Please review our Standards for Qualitative Research Guidance for Authors and Peer Reviewers here.

Manuscripts must be organized using a clear hierarchy of headings and subheadings. While authors may establish their own subheading titles, they should have divisions correlating to “background” (no heading necessary), “methods,” “results,” and “discussion.”

We ask authors to follow the consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ) developed by Tong, Sainsbury, and Craig (2007). In addition to reporting key elements, we ask authors to explain briefly why they used their chosen methodological approach, sampling strategy, and sample size. Authors submitting to NIB should demonstrate how they have ensured the quality of their research. Standards for qualitative research for authors and peer reviewers are available here.

Articles may be up to 7,500 words. Learn more about what NIB offers to qualitative researchers.

Submit Your Research Article Here.

3. Case Studies

Case study articles are stand-alone articles that include an in-depth description and analysis of one or more instructive cases from health care that involve an ethical problem. The author or authors of a case study must be personally involved in the case being discussed. NIB welcomes case studies on a variety of subjects including clinical care of patients, institutional undertakings, and policy initiatives. Case studies should be rich in description and should contain an analysis of the case that explores how the ethical challenges might best be addressed and what can be learned from the case. All case studies must adhere to the confidentiality principles outlined in the Author Guidelines. The editors may or may not invite commentaries on the case study. Authors should submit three discussion questions that can be used by faculty or discussion group leaders who choose to teach using the case. Questions will be published along with the case study.

Case study articles should be 3,500-5,000 words.

Submit Your Case Study Here.

4. Narrative Education Reports

NIB publishes reports on educational programs with health professionals that integrate narrative writing, journaling, or narratives by patients, participants, or caregivers. Articles may be written as case studies describing and evaluating the implementation of educational programs or as outcomes research studies using qualitative or mixed methods.

Narrative Education Report articles will ordinarily range from 2,000-4,000 words.

Submit Your Narrative Education Report Here.



Submissions to NIB should follow “APA Style” (the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th edition), using author/date references throughout. A useful free resource on APA style can be found at: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/. Manuscripts should be double-spaced on 8 1/2" x 11" paper with 1” margins. The title page should include all authors' names, affiliations, and highest professional degrees; the corresponding author's address and telephone number; five keywords; acknowledgements; and a disclosure of conflicts of interest. The title page should be followed by an abstract of 100 – 150 words.


All contributors to NIB are expected to follow the highest standards for publication ethics and research integrity.

Protecting the Privacy of Third Parties

NIB is committed to protecting privacy and confidentiality. Agreements to publish personal stories require a willingness to make personal information public. However, personal stories, case studies and qualitative research studies may intrude on the privacy of third parties (e.g., family members, colleagues, or patients). As is standard in scholarly publishing, NIB’s publication agreement requires authors to assume the responsibility for avoiding libel and privacy violations. Strategies for doing so include:

  • De-identify living individuals and institutions whenever making a statement about information that could be viewed as private (e.g., health information) or embarrassing or harmful to reputation. De-identification involves removing details about individuals or institutions that enable readers to determine the identity of the individual or institution. At a minimum, NIB expects authors to remove the identifiers listed in the HIPAA safe harbor rule. Table 1 provides examples of unacceptable details and appropriate de-identified alternatives.
  • When the details of your life (e.g., your long-term employment) make it impossible to avoid identifying others who might be harmed by your story, then consider two options:
    • Obtain written permission from the living individuals or institutions that are identified in your story after allowing them to review your article. You may use NIB’s “Consent for Publication of Identifying Information” for this purpose.
    • –Or–
    • Request that your story be published anonymously. You will still need to identify yourself to the editorial staff and sign a consent to publish, and will still assume liability for your article. But this may greatly decrease the likelihood that a 3rd party can be identified by your story.

Table 1: Examples of Unacceptable and Acceptable Descriptions of Living Individuals and Institutions

Unacceptable: Identifies 3rd Party Acceptable: De-identifies 3rd Party
Dr. Finney, my primary care physician, never discussed my test results with me. The physician who ordered the test never discussed my results with me.
Mrs. Jackson was a 42-year old African-American woman who had a rare congenital disease. She presented to our emergency room in September of 2009. Either: A patient presented to the emergency room with a rare congenital disease. We will call her Mrs. Smith. (Note: race might be mentioned if relevant and non-identifying.) Or: Obtain written permission from Mrs. Jackson to include her in your story.
While at the local VA hospital, I acquired a staph infection due to a nurse’s failure to follow patient safety protocols. While hospitalized, I acquired a staph infection. During my stay, I never observed the nurses wearing gloves or washing their hands after handling patients.
My father was an alcoholic and beat me. Difficult to de-identify.
  • If the father is still alive, consider obtaining written permission to include this detail.
  • Consider publishing anonymously.
  • Consider omitting from story.
Authorship Policy

Contributors should adhere to the authorship guidelines provided by their field (e.g., APA for psychologists or ICMJE guidelines for medical researchers). At a minimum, all individuals listed as authors must have (a) made a substantial intellectual contribution to the publication, (b) played a role in the writing or editing of the manuscript, and (c) reviewed and approved the final manuscript. When the lead author signs the publication agreement form, he or she does so on behalf of all authors and indicates that he or she has the agreement of others to do so.

Human Subjects Protection

Authors are expected to comply with their institution’s requirements regarding human subjects’ protection and are encouraged to check with institutional review boards (or research ethics committees) regarding their policies on the review of case studies and related materials.

Conflicts of Interest

Authors are expected to disclose in their Acknowledgements section any and all funding received for their work, as well as financial or personal relationships that might bias (or be perceived to bias) their work. Authors must also identify individuals who offer writing or other assistance with their article and disclose the funding source for this assistance. If authors have no conflicts of interest or funding to report, they should state this in their acknowledgements.

Research Integrity

Authors assume responsibility for the proper attribution sources (of ideas or words) and the integrity of data and assertions of fact. Authors further agree to fully cooperate with any investigation arising from allegations of a violation of scholarly integrity or the journal’s ethics policies. The journal will handle allegations in accordance with its policy on Responding to Allegations.

Open Access Options

Articles may be made freely available online in perpetuity for a fee. For additional information about open access, please visit the Johns Hopkins University Press Open Access informational page here.