Literature Searches for Animal Testing Alternatives

For help completing IACUC protocol applications.

Identifying Important Concepts & Developing a Search Question

Think about the procedures that you are proposing in your protocol.

  • What is your general area of study (e.g., cardiology, neurology, toxicology, etc.)?Mouse
  • What species are you currently working with (e.g., rats, dogs, swine, etc.)?
  • What is your experimental protocol?
  • What specific systems or parts of the anatomy are involved (e.g., central nervous system, brain stem, parabrachial nucleus)?
  • What hormones, enzymes, or chemical agent are you studying?
  • Have you conducted any other searches? If so, what databases were used (e.g., MEDLINE, AGRICOLA, BIOSIS)?
  • What keywords were used (e.g., kidney, parathyroid hormone)?
  • What years were searched (e.g., 1985-present)?
  • Do you know of any prominent authors in your area of research?
  • Have you published any previous literature that relates to your current study?


  • Have any computer simulation models or statistical models been developed that relate to the study?
  • Can the product, enzyme, or tissue be tested or raised in culture?
  • If not, are there any alternative animal models (e.g., invertebrates, protozoa, etc.)?
  • Are there any other in vitro techniques that may reduce or replace the number of animals used?
  • Is there literature on proper experimental design that may assist the researcher in utilizing animals more effectively or in reducing the number of animals?


  • Can you replace a technique, compound/drug, etc. with a less painful or distressing alternative and still get the desired effect?Lab mouse playing on monkey bars
  • Are you using anesthetics, analgesics and/or sedatives to alleviate pain/distress without jeopardizing the scientific results?
  • Do the pharmacological compounds that you are using have any adverse effects?
  • Are the compounds tolerable when administered in the suggested location on the body? Using that route of administration? In that species or strain?
  • Is there an alternative compound with fewer side effects or is more tolerable?
  • Are there any alternative humane endpoints?
  • Is there another researcher doing the technique from whom you can receive training?


  • Will a pilot study be necessary to evaluate whether further studies are justified?
  • Are you using the appropriate species?
  • How do you know that the proposed number of animals, animals per group and replications will give you statistically significant results?
  • Has another researcher found statistically significant results with your proposed numbers?
  • Can you reduce experimental variability (e.g., using transgenic animals instead of pharmacological agents) or reducing confounding variables (e.g., stress)?

Your search question determines the appropriate keywords that you will need to answer your questions.

"Mouse" by procesocreativo
"Lab Mouse Playing Monkey Bars" by Rick Eh?