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How Do I Perform Searches for My IACUC Protocol?

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

Email with questions about capturing search strings.


An example of completed search box in CATS-IACUC (alternatives). Your search terms may be different.

1. *Procedure causing pain or distress:

Jugular Catheter

2. *Date of Search:


3. Database(s) Searched:

PubMed/MEDLINE, Web of Science

4. Keywords used:

jugular catheter rats pain distress

5. Summarize your search for an alternative procedure:

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

Web of Science: TOPIC: ("jugular catheter" rat (pain OR stress OR distress)). 28 results. Articles discussed xyz methods and we will adjust our procedures to xyz method based on the review of the articles.

6. Time period covered by search:

Start: 1/1/1960

End: 4/28/2017

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 Cisney 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.