Vrije universiteit Amsterdam logo
Universiteit Groningen logo
Universiteit Leiden

Interdisciplinary course BSc Health and Life SciencesSub-topic example: Bulimia Nervosa

Noa Dayan
Elizaveta Tarasova
Femke Poland


This course guide describes the Interdisciplinary course for the Bachelor Health and Life Sciences. This is an interdisciplinary course bringing the students from the three different majors back together to integrate the knowledge, skills, perspectives and ideas they gained during their different majors. The forces from these three different majors will be used to write a research proposal and to present this in the form of a pitch to address a challenge in health care. The process of interdisciplinary collaboration, writing a research proposal and preparing a pitch will be guided by lectures, tutorials and working sessions. The best pitch of the course will get the opportunity to actually conduct the proposed research during their Master’s internship!


Welcome to the Interdisciplinary course BSc Health and Life Sciences! This course will be the final course before you are finishing your bachelor’s degree. You just finished your internship in your field of interest: Biomedical Sciences, Sustainable Health and Care, or Clinical Sciences. This final course brings you all back together to integrate the knowledge, skills, perspectives and ideas you gained during the different majors. This interdisciplinary approach is highly necessary since challenges in health care cannot be addressed by one discipline only, which was seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virologists, clinicians, physicists, epidemiologists, immunologists, economists and sociologists all had to work together and agree on one health issue, which was not always easy. Therefore, all three majors will work together in this course to have an interdisciplinary view on a certain challenge in health care. In this way, you will learn how to apply concepts and methods from your specialization to another specialization and to incorporate the concepts and methods from another specialization into your specialization, which is a highly valuable skill to carry with you in your future career. This skill will help you to collaborate with other disciplines on health challenges, in which you can make the change for society! 

We highly emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary research within health care and therefore within this course. Let’s first clarify what interdisciplinarity is. There is not one accepted definition of interdisciplinarity, but the most widely accepted definition states that a team integrates methods, knowledge, skills, theories and perspectives from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge in order to extend knowledge or to solve problems from which the solutions cannot be found by one single discipline (Keestra & Menken, 2016). ‘Integration’ is a crucial verb in this definition, since it is important to distinguish interdisciplinarity from multidisciplinarity, which can be seen in Figure 1. In multidisciplinary research a problem is also approached from two or more disciplines. However, the methods, knowledge, etc. are not integrated to come up with one final theory or solution. Every discipline comes up with its own theories and solutions instead (Keestra & Menken, 2016). 

Figure 1. Interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity 

From Keestra & Menken, 2016.

By now it is clear that this course is completely focused on interdisciplinary research. Therefore, the course has to include the key characteristics of interdisciplinary research, namely: collaboration, the integration of disciplinary aspects, the identification of new health issues and the development of solutions and knowledge across the different disciplines (Klaassen, 2018). These key characteristics of interdisciplinary research all come back in the process of writing a research proposal in an interdisciplinary group. Writing an interdisciplinary research proposal and presenting this in the form of a pitch will therefore be the main focus and end goal of this course. You will be guided in the interdisciplinary approach for the research proposal within the tutorials, which will be based on interdisciplinary education methods as e.g. the Fishbowl method.

During this course you will work in interdisciplinary groups on the research proposal, which you will present in the form of a pitch. Research proposals are part of the scientific research process. It is a document which proposes the research project the researcher wants to perform, by explaining what the researcher wants to perform, how the researcher will do this, and why the proposed research is relevant, unique, important and it includes an acquisition for the university or company you work for. A research proposal is necessary to convince the university or company that your research idea is worthwhile, manageable and that the results will have an impact on the challenges healthcare is facing today. The end goal of the research proposal is to get funded in order to be able to perform the proposed research project. If you want to continue in academia chances are high that you have to write a research proposal, e.g. for your Master’s thesis, a PhD dissertation or as a postdoctoral researcher. Therefore, being able to write and pitch your research proposal in a strong and convincing way is a valuable skill to have for your future career. 

Within this course, you can choose your own sub-course based on your personal preference. The sub-course you choose gives direction to the topic of your research proposal and you will have tutorials in which the focus will be on your sub-course of choice. The sub-courses you can choose from are all interdisciplinary and can be addressed from the perspective of the three different majors. The sub-courses are: bulimia nervosa, X, Y, Z. During the introductory lecture, the sub-courses will be pitched and afterwards you are able to sign up for a sub-course. Based on your choice of a sub-course the interdisciplinary groups are formed in which you will write the research proposal and do the pitch. Interdisciplinary groups means that every group consists of at least one student from every major.

The heritability of bulimia nervosa is estimated to be 60%, which mostly is a biomedical perspective on the disease (Bulik et al., 1998). Approximately 30% patients experience relapse after treatment, which is mostly a sustainable point of view (Keel & Mitchell, 1997). Lastly, the prevalence of bulimia nervosa is up to 3% for females and more than 1% for males, which is mostly a medical point of view (Van Eeden et al., 2021). These statistics already indicate that it is highly necessary to address a disease as bulimia nervosa with an interdisciplinary approach. The perspectives of the different disciplines do overlap a lot, bulimia nervosa cannot be addressed from one discipline only! 

You will go through the entire process of writing a research proposal. After determining the direction of the topic of your research proposal, this continues with a literature review into the background of the topic. You will look into what is known and unknown about your topic, you will investigate what the research gap is and why it is relevant to close this gap. The goal of this literature review is to formulate a relevant research question. Therefore, to help you get started with the research proposal and to get to know the background from the view of all three different majors, you will prepare a presentation with the people from your own major within your sub-course. After that you will work on the methodology, ethics, and achievability (e.g. budgeting). During the course you will work on these building blocks to complete the research proposal, which will be guided by different teaching activities: lectures, tutorials, and working sessions. The lectures will explain how to write the different building blocks of the research proposal. The tutorials will guide you through the process of writing a research proposal and preparing a pitch. The working sessions are there for you to collaborate with your interdisciplinary group and to consult the teacher for questions. 

You and your group will be assessed on the following learning goals based on your written research proposal and additionally in the form of a pitch.

At the end of this course, you are able to: 

  • Apply the knowledge you gained on the lectures about the research proposal to writing your own research proposal.
  • Describe what is already known about the health challenges of your topic from a biomedical, sustainable and clinical point of view.
  • Describe the health challenges your topic is facing today from a biomedical, sustainable and clinical point of view.
  • Describe the research gap of the health challenges of your topic from a biomedical, sustainable and clinical point of view. 
  • Formulate an interdisciplinary research question based on the research gap identified. 
  • Describe a proposal for a research design to investigate the research gap. 
  • Convey the proposed research in the form of a pitch. 
  • Explain the strengths and weaknesses of the way in which a relevant health challenge can be investigated and addressed.

Teaching Activities

This course contains common classes as well as working groups/sessions that will be about the different subjects (in your case bulimia nervosa).

During the common classes you will learn how to write a research proposal and how to create and present a pitch about your proposal. 

During the working groups you will work in teams on the building blocks of the research proposal and the pitch. This will be done with a variety of activities.

You will have two working sessions per week, in which you will have time to create your lecture in the first week, write the research proposal and prepare the pitch in the following weeks. There will be a tutor available for questions. 

Common lectures

Week 1

Common lecture 1:

Introduction about the structure and schedule of the course. There will be pitches about the subcourses, one of which you will choose to follow for the rest of the course.

  • During this lecture the students will be divided into subcourses (e.g. bulimia nervosa).
  • Students will be provided with general information on the research proposal, its components and its presentation requirements.

Week  2

Common lecture 2:

Guidance on how to write necessary components of the research proposal (1). 

  1. Introduction
    • relevance
    • research question
  2. Literature review 
    • background, research gap
  3. Points to take into account
    • references

Week 3

Common lecture 3:

Guidance on how to write necessary components of the research proposal (2). 

  1. Methodology
  2. Ethics 
  3. Achievability
    • budgeting 


The Bachelor of Health and Life Sciences focuses on improving health by incorporating knowledge of a variety of disciplines. In the future you will face real life (health) challenges and by using multiple disciplines you get closer to finding solutions. Therefore, it is important to collaborate with different disciplines. During the tutorials you will work on the building blocks of writing a research proposal and pitching your ideas.

Week 1:

Tutorial 1:

This tutorial will be divided into two parts: 

  1. During the first part you will meet your fellow students. There will be an overview given on what the tutorials will look like. You will also get an explanation on the presentations you need to give during tutorial 2. You will form groups with the students from your own major and you will prepare a presentation from the view of your discipline on the research gap regarding your topic. 
  2. During the second part of this tutorial you will meet an (ex-)patient. Together with the teacher you will discuss the case and have the opportunity to ask the (ex-)patient questions to find the research gap. For example, when you choose Bulimia nervosa, during this lecture you will cover the symptoms, the forms of therapy, psychological effects and the clinical aspects of bulimia nervosa. 

Tutorial 2:

This tutorial will be divided into two parts:

  1. During the first part you will give the presentations on the research gap based on your own discipline. 
  2. During the second part you will be divided into smaller groups, with at least one student from every major. You will continue to work within this group for the rest of the course. Together you will brainstorm about the same case from tutorial 1 and you will come up with a research question.

Week 2:

Tutorial 3:

In the tutorial of week 2 you will continue working together in the small interdisciplinary groups from the previous week. 

  1. You will focus on finalizing your research question and diving into building relevance and literature review around it, combining your disciplines together. You will get guidance from the teacher in your search for literature review, who will provide a list of questions which will help you through the process of formulating a research question and writing an introduction.  
  2. The output of this week would be a ready research question and ready introduction section for your research proposal. Therefore, each of you will need to provide literature review from your discipline, combine it with your peers from other disciplines and merge them in a way that supports your research question. 

Week 3:

Tutorial 4:

In this working group you will focus on the methodology, ethics and achievability of the research proposal. The teachers will again provide a list of questions which will help you through the process of the methodology, ethics and achievability of the research proposal. 

Tutorial 5:

You will follow a workshop on how to create a pitch, to practice pitching in general. You will have the opportunity to ask the teacher questions.  

Week 4:

Final presentations:

  • You will pitch your research proposal, assessed by your teacher. The class will decide, together with the teacher, who has the best research proposal. This group will go to the last “level” and will present their pitch to all students. 

Fishbowl method 

We wanted to incorporate the “fishbowl method” in this course, since the main focus of this course is on interdisciplinary approach and collaboration. We were thinking of including this method in the second part of tutorial 1 and tutorial 2, when a patient’s case is discussed.

In the “fishbowl method” there are two circles, one outer circle and one inner circle.

In the inner circle, the “fishbowl”, students have a discussion about a specific subject. In this course the discussion will be about the patient’s case. The outer circle observes, takes notes and remains quiet during the discussion. There is a facilitator (a student) present during this activity, whose job it is to ask deeper questions and to make sure that every student participates (Zubizarreta, 2008). 

The “fishbowl method” is dynamic and shifts the “learning part” from the teacher to the students themselves. They are in charge of their own learning process, which fits very well in this course. 

Working sessions

During this 4 week course you will work in interdisciplinary groups. Every group will have at least one student from every discipline. Working together and sharing your knowledge and thoughts is essential for your end products. There will be a teacher available during the working sessions for questions and guidance. The teacher will check on your progress by check-ins at the beginning of the sessions and check-outs at the end of the sessions. 

These are the qualities we expect you to use during the group sessions:

  • Working together
  • Brainstorming
  • Open minded 
  • Creativity

Overview Course


Research Proposal

The main outputs of this course is your research proposal and your presentation to pitch this proposal to the audience. 

The written research proposal has to be conducted in interdisciplinary groups, each of which consists of representatives from each discipline: Clinical Sciences, Biomedical Sciences and Sustainable Health and Care. It is important that the research proposal will be created using an interdisciplinary perspective. Below you can find the output of every week, which you have to submit every Sunday of the week before 23:59. The output of the different weeks are the building blocks of the final research proposal and pitch.

Week 2

Hand in: final formulation of research question

Students must hand in the research question (RQ) which they have come up with together with their partners. 


  1. The RQ clearly communicates the research gap you and your partners want to research
  2. The RQ reflects a common interest from a interdisciplinary approach
  3. The RQ is clear and contains no ambiguities
  4. The RQ is possible to answer and, thus, is not too vague or subjective
  5. The RQ is narrow, of an achievable, appropriate scope

When formulating your final RQ, remember the difference between a research question and a hypothesis. A research question is the question the researchers seek to answer. While the hypothesis is a falsifiable predictive statement they make in relation to the research question.

An example of a research question might be: “Is there a relationship between growing up with a single parent and experiencing bulimia nervosa?”. Question does not give an expectation or prediction on the existence of the relationship or its direction. A hypothesis, on the other hand, sets out an expectation. An example could be: “Bulimia nervosa is higher among people who grew up with a single parent than among those who grew up with both parents”.

Hand in: Introduction & Literature Review

After formulating your RQ, you will need to conduct literature review to back up your research proposal with relevant scientific background. Use relevant sources when conducting literature review.

You are going to use the literature review in order to write the introduction section of your research proposal. This needs to be submitted at the end of week 2.


  • When conducting literature review, you must find at least 3 academic sources which support the background research done on your topic.
  • Your introduction section needs to cover the background of the previous research done in your topic of choice, as well as identify the gap which your research is aiming at covering. 
  • Your introduction section also needs to explain the relevance of your future research. “Why is it important that this research is conducted?”, “How will this research contribute to the scientific community?”, “What will be the impact of this research on society?”.
  • Please consult the rubrics for a more detailed instruction on how to write the introduction. 

Week 3

Hand in: Methodology plan

For the next part of your research proposal, you will need to hand in your methodology and statistical analysis plan. You will need to submit both methodology & statistics and ethics & achievability considerations by the end of week 3.


  • Clearly formulate how you are planning to conduct your research. Explain why you have chosen these methods and how you plan to execute them.
  • Explain how your methods will help answer your proposal’s research question.
  • Specify how you plan to collect your data and which statistical tests you will use to analyze it in your research.
  • Consult the rubrics on a more detailed instruction on how to write the methodology plan

Hand in: Ethics & Achievability considerations of your research proposal

By the end of week 3, together with the methodological and statistical plan, you need to submit ethics & achievability considerations.


  • A description of at least two ethical considerations related to your research proposal.
  • A description of how achievable your research proposal is. Consider how feasible it is to organize and execute such research. Perhaps, how much money would it require or human resource? 
  • Make an overview of the costs that need to be made for conducting the research. Take the costs of certain methods already into consideration when designing the methodology! For example: one fMRI costs approximately 10.000 euros. Is it then achievable to conduct an fMRI of 200 participants? Or should the sample size be reduced? 
  • Consult the rubrics on a more detailed instruction on how to write the ethics & achievability considerations part. 

Week 4

Hand In: Final written Research Proposal and Pitch

By the end of week 4 you will need to submit your final written research proposal and pitch it to the audience at a symposium. 


  • Your final written research proposal needs to include all the components, namely, title page with your research question, introduction with literature review and the hypothesis, methodological and statistical plan, ethical considerations, achievability and references.
  • Consult the rubrics for the precise format guidelines which have to be incorporated throughout your written proposal.
  • Your final pitch needs to be presented to the audience at the symposium at the end of the course. First, within your own sub-group, from where the best pitch from each sub-group will be presented to the larger audience of all the students of the course. 
  • The format of your pitch is up to you. It could include presentation slides, just be a talk, have some interactive components with the audience. This is your chance to show your creativity and capture the attention of the audience as you would if pitching to real potential stakeholders. The only requirement is the length of maximally 5 minutes. 
  • The pitching guidelines are taught during the tutorials. Contact your tutor for any questions in regards to the pitch.



At the end of this course you will submit your final interdisciplinary research proposal. To make the end of your last course of the entire Bachelor program special, you will pitch your research proposal at a symposium at the end of last week. This event aims at preparing you for the realities in the field of research. In reality, it is important not only to come up with a good proposal but also pitch it well in order to get funding. That is why all the groups will be competing for the best research proposal pitch award and get a chance to turn it into actual research for their Master’s internship. The winners will be selected during the symposium. You are welcome to invite your family and friends to share this moment with you and show them the output of your last course and celebrate your achievement.

Pitching competition of the research proposal was chosen as a pedagogical exercise for students to teach them skills needed to communicate their research proposal in a short presentation pitch, where they will effectively summarize all the key points and present them to potential stakeholders and investors. (McCollough et al., 2016)

The final grade for the course will be calculated as the point average of the pitch presentation of your research proposal (40%) and the written research proposal (60%). The presentation pitch grade will be comprised of the average of the grade given by the teacher (30%) and the grade given by the students in the audience (10%)

The pitch presentation of your research proposal will be held during week 4. Firstly, pitches will be made within your own sub-subject group. There, both the teacher (30%) and fellow students (10%) will grade your presentation. Secondly, the best pitch of each sub-group will make it to the final pitch round and be presented to the larger audience and jury. The winning team will receive the opportunity to proceed with their research proposal into actual research for their Master’s internship. 

The written research proposal will be submitted by the end of week 4. 

In order to pass this course, the average of both the pitch presentation and the written proposal grades needs to be a minimum of 5.5. Passing the individual components, i.e., presentation and report, is not mandatory. However, if you do not present your pitch, you will receive grade 1 for presentation and if you do not submit your written proposal, you will also receive grade 1 for that.

Attendance is mandatory. This is a short and intensive course, so a student may only miss 1 working session and 1 tutorial with a valid reason.


Bulik, C. M., Sullivan, P. F., & Kendler, K. S. (1998). Heritability of binge-eating and broadly defined bulimia nervosa. Biological Psychiatry, 44(12), 1210–1218.

Keel, P. K., & Mitchell, J. E. (1997). Outcome in bulimia nervosa. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 154(3), 313–321.

Keestra, M., & Menken, S. (2016). An introduction to interdisciplinary research: theory and practice. Amsterdam University Press.

Klaassen, R. (2018). Interdisciplinary education: a case study. European Journal of Engineering Education, 43(6), 842–859. doi: 10.1080/03043797.2018.1442417 

McCollough, M. L., Devezer, B., & Tanner, G. W. (2016). An Alternative Format for the Elevator Pitch. The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Van Eeden, A. E., Van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2021). Incidence, prevalence and mortality of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 34(6), 515–524.

Zubizarreta, J. (2008). Chapter seven: The teaching and learning fishbowl. Inspiring Exemplary Teaching and Learning: Perspectives on Teaching Academically Talented College Students, 113.