Skip to Content

A Need for Needles - Acupuncture

Does it Really Work?


Sarah G. Stonefoot
Department of Art & Art History
Beloit College
Clyde Freeman Herreid
Department of Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo


In this case study, students evaluate information about the use of acupuncture and consider the possibilities of alternative therapies while at the same time questioning their effectiveness. To complete the case, students collect information from Internet sources and journal publications from both a "pro" and "con" point of view, with an emphasis on carefully evaluating the credibility of the information they collect. The case would be suitable for introductory level courses in biology and science.


  • To consider alternative medical therapies in general and acupuncture in particular.
  • To evaluate information and data to determine whether there is enough scientific evidence to conclude that acupuncture is an effective form of treatment.


Acupuncture; alternative medicine; complementary medicine; pain management; electroacupuncture; qi; yin; yang; moxibustion; cupping; endorphin theory; gate-control theory; placebo effect; evidence based medicine; nervous system

Topical Areas

Scientific argumentation

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Dilemma/Decision, Discussion



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Science (General)  |   Medicine (General)  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.

Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.