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How Do I Perform Searches for My IACUC Protocol?

Collection Development and Digital Resource Management Librarian

Lori Snyder's picture
Lori Snyder
Please contact me with any recommendations for this guide.

George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library
717-531-0003, x285323

Getting started

A good place to begin learning about a search for alternatives is the Literature Searching and Database page of the Animal Welfare Information Center.

You can also consult the Selected Databases page of this guide. Remember to use two different databases for your searches. You can use one resource that searches the MedLine database but your second resource must search a different body of information.

Requirements for the protocol

The narrative describing the search for alternatives should include the following:

  • the names of the databases searched (use at least two databases)
  • the date the search was performed
  • the time period covered by the search
  • the search strategy (including scientifically relevant terminology) - keep track of your search strings with questions about capturing search strings.

An example of completed protocol form (alternatives section). Your search terms may be different.
Potentially painful procedure: Jugular Catheter  
Name of databases searched: PubMed/MEDLINE, Web of Science  
Date of Search: 4/28/2017  
Years covered by search: 1960-2017  

Keywords or search strategies used:

PubMed: ("jugular catheter"[All Fields] AND ("rats"[MeSH Terms] OR "rats"[All Fields])) AND (("pain"[MeSH Terms] OR "pain"[All Fields]) OR ("stress"[All Fields]) OR distress[All Fields]) 

Web of Science: TOPIC: ("jugular catheter" rat (pain OR stress OR distress))

23 results in PubMed. Articles discussed xyz methods but these particular procedures do not work for our research because...

28 results in Web of Science. Articles discussed xyz methods and we will adjust our procedures to xyz method based on the review of the articles.


Click on the Tutorial link below for a step-by-step guide to performing literature searches in PubMed Medline and Web of Science. 

Suggested Search for Death as Endpoint

A search for alternatives to death as an endpoint can be challenging to build. Here is a sample of such a search in PubMed Medline: 

(("leukaemia"[All Fields] OR "leukemia"[MeSH Terms] OR "leukemia"[All Fields])) AND ((((((humane) AND ((endpoint) OR endpoints))) OR ((death) AND ((endpoint) OR endpoints)))) AND (("animal experimentation"[MeSH Terms] OR ("animal"[All Fields] AND "experimentation"[All Fields]) OR "animal experimentation"[All Fields] OR ("animal"[All Fields] AND "research"[All Fields]) OR "animal research"[All Fields])))

You can use this same search for your protocol by replacing leukemia with the topic of your research. For further assistance, contact Lori Snyder at the Harrell Health Sciences Library.

Suggested search terms for when searching for alternatives

The term "alternatives" is not a catch-all as many subject specialties do not use the term, or use it in ways not relevant to searching for "alternatives" to painful/distressful procedures. Refer to the Altweb Resources Search Guide for more information: 

Here are some suggested terms to use when searching for alternatives:


animal testing alternative • assay • distress • euthanasia • learn • learning • method • model • pain • replace • replacement • surrogate • system • teach • teaching • technique


aided/assisted • artificial • cadaver • computers • image • imaging • instruction • interactive • mathematical model(ing) • model(ing) • prediction • simulation • software • teaching • theoretical model(ing) • virtual


statistics • statistical analysis • experimental design • model • reduce • reduction


distress • (non-)invasive • pain • postoperative • postsurgery • stress• anaesthesia • anesthesia • anesthetic • anaesthetic • analgesia • analgesic • anxiolytic • sedative• animal cage • animal caging • animal euthanasia • animal housing • animal husbandry • animal welfare

The USDA provides a worksheet of possible search terms.