Literature Searches for Animal Testing Alternatives

For help completing IACUC protocol applications.


Selecting appropriate keywords will determine the final results of your search. A good literature search will use general biology terms for replacement, reduction, and refinement as well as words that are specific to your research. The key words for alternatives must specifically address anything in the protocol that is potentially painful or distressful.

  • Most of the keywords will come from the area of study and procedures proposed in the protocol. 
  • Conducting the search with study related terminology will retrieve information pertinent to the investigator's field of study.
  • Citations retrieved should provide information on current research, alert the PI to whether or not they are performing duplicative studies, and possibly provide information to refine experimental techniques.
  • The use of “alternatives” as a search term should be avoided except in toxicology or education. Because alternatives is a complex concept, the term “alternatives” often retrieves results not related to the 3Rs.

Mouse in gloved handSome example general terms that can be combined with terms specific to your anticipated research are shown in Appendix 1 below. Use synonyms, related terms, different word spelling, acronyms, and interchangeable drug names in your search for alternatives.


For more help with keywords, follow these links -

Appendix 1

Reduction and Refinement
Analgesic, analgesia, hypnotic,
  sedative, tranquilizer, pain reduction
Anesthesia,anasthesic, anasthesia,
  anaesthesic, anaesthesia, anaesthesic
Animal welfare, animal well-being
Assay, technique, method, procedure
Biomarker, biological marker
Enrichment (behavioral, behavioural, environmental)
Experimental design
Handling, restraint
  Housing, husbandry, caging
Humane endpoints
Invasive, non-invasive
Monitoring device, telemetry device
Pain, stress, distress
Positive reinforcement
Postoperative, postsurgery
Reduce, reduction
Restraint, restrict, immobilize
Train, educate, teach, instruct
Welfare, pain, stress, distress
Algae, fungus, hydra, plant
Animal testing, animal model
Artificial intelligence system, AI
Assay, technique, method, procedure
Autopsy, biopsy
Bacteria, microorganism, protozoan, single-celled organism, yeast
Cadaver, carcass
Cell, cell line, cellular
Computer aided instruction, computer assisted instruction, CAI
Culture (cell, tissue, organ)
Digital imaging
In silico
Isolated (cell, tissue, organ)
Fish, cephalopod
Insect, invertebrate
Mannequin, manikin, manikin
Mathematical (biology or model or simulation)



Membrane, organ, organelle, slice, tissue, tissue equivalent
Model (animal, cadaveric, interactive, mathematical, statistical, theoretical), modelling (UK), modeling (US)
Non animal model
Physicochemical systems
Plastinate, plastination
Replacement, surrogate
Simulation, simulator, trainer
Structure - activity relationship
Structured evaluated system
Tissue culture, organ culture
Tissue engineering
Train, educate, teach, instruct
Virtual (surgery, reality)
Vitro (AND method, model, technique)