Established Empirical Methods


Besides methods aimed specifically at eliciting implicit values there is a wide variety of methods, empirical and philosophical, for exploring values more generally

This section notes some of the key disciplines that can be used for exploring values and the importance of co-research between those with expertise by experience (as patients or carers) working alongside experts by training.

Philosophical methods for exploring values are covered in Other Philosophical Sources.

Key Disciplines

Any of the established methods used in anthropology and other areas of the social and psychological sciences, quantitative and qualitative, may be helpful in exploring the values likely to be in play in a given situation. Examples include

  • Ethnographic studies
  • Focus groups
  • Participant observer methods
  • Surveys

Narrative, including first person accounts, provide an important and growing resource for understanding values, much of it available on line.


Co-research paradigms of various kinds – in which those with knowledge by experience (as patients and/or carers) work alongside experts by training – are being increasingly adopted in many areas of research in health and social care. Co-research is especially powerful in research on values. A co-research methodology was used for example in Colombo’s models project (see Implicit Values in Research).

The service user researcher Jan Wallcraft has written extensively on the values issues raised by co-research

Wallcraft, J (forthcoming, 2015) Service user involvement in research: ethics and values, in Sadler J.Z., Fulford K.W.M., and van Staden W., (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatric Etics. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Neuroethics and the Science Driven Principle

The development in recent years of a whole new field of neuroethics in response to values-related questions raised by advances in the neurosciences, illustrates the importance of the Science Driven Principle of values-based practice, namely that advances in science and technology increase rather than reduce the importance of differences of values in

Julian Savulescu’s Oxford Centre for Neuroethics for example covers a range of contemporary values-related issues including cognitive enhancement, free will, responsibility and addiction, and the neuroscience of morality.

Judy Iles and Barbara Sahakian’s Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics provides a comprehensive account of contemporary issues

The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics
Iles, J., and Sahakian, B.J. (2013) (Eds) Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press

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