Skip to main content

Animal Research Alternatives: Before Searching the Literature...Make a Plan

To support research scientists in searching the literature in order to comply with the Animal Welfare Act (7USC 2131-2156)

Worksheet for searching literature

 A Word Document version of this worksheet is available through clicking on the link above


Image result for "literature search"


Animal Testing Literature Search Worksheet

  • Title of Animal Study Protocol
  • General area of study (as drug testing, cardiology, toxicology, fetal alcohol syndrome, or lipid metabolism)
  • Protocol study type  (as  research, teaching, or testing)
  • Description of the experimental protocol including objectives and endpoints
  • Listing of all authors in the field, especially PIs
  • Proposed animal species (as swine, rats, dogs, or primates)
  • Proposed use of the animals, in detail
    Listing of which systems, anatomical parts, or organ systems are involved
  • Description of the methods and procedures using animals
       Include all that may cause the animal pain or distress and those that will relieve the animal of pain
       Relevance of the methods and procedures to the study
         The PI must search for alternatives for painful or distressful procedures
  • Listing of all potential alternatives
    USDA AWIC recommends searching in two phases: Phase I -Reduction/Refinement and Phase II - Replacement
    • Reduction in the number of animals used (as shared control groups, consultation with a statistician)
    • Refinement of techniques and procedures to reduce pain or distress (as analgesics, modified restraint, modified techniques)
    • Replacement of animals with non-animal techniques or use of less-sentient species/animals lower on the phylogenetic scale, tissue or cell cultures, in vitro methods, computer simulations or animals models/simulations(see above, first step) 
      This Library Guide contains Keyword suggestions
  • Listing of  all drugs, compounds, hormones, enzymes, and CAS#s to be used in the procedures
         Include all scientific, trade, and generic names
  • Listing of  keywords/concepts using terminology from the responses to questions above
    Keep concepts separate to create a good search strategy
          e.g. Keywords of concept 1 - heart OR cardiac OR cardiovascular disease
                 Keywords of concept 2 - Ace inhibitors OR Beta-blockers
    This Library Guide contains Keyword suggestions
  • Database selection: (Choose those that are appropriate for the area of study):
    ____ PubMed ____ Science Citation Index____ Biological Abstracts/BIOSIS
    ____ AGRICOLA____ TOXNET
    ____ Other  specialized databases and web resources as recommended by the Information Specialist.

    This Library Guide contains Database suggestions and Web site suggestions
  • Select databases which are appropriate for the area of study
    See Database Selection Guide
  • Database year(s) of coverage: ___________ to ___________
  • Detailed, flexible search strategy with the keywords and concepts noted above.
       Flexibility is necessary because
    • Databases vary in their respective search algorithms
    • Search strategies may need to be revised if too many or too little records are retrieved
  • Listing of any other sources used to determine that alternatives are/are not available.
       This listing should be secondary to the literature search.
       Found resources may be useful in supporting or rebuke potential alternatives found in the search.
      Other resources may include conference attendance, committee membership, professional expertise and training

Adapted from: UC Davis Center for Animal Alternatives Information ( and Worksheet and Instructions for Alternatives Literature Searching (USDA, 2009)  and 3Rs search guide (Canadian Council on Animal Care © 2005-2015 )

Other literature search planning guides