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IACUC: Animal Alternatives

Audience: Principal Investigators, IACUC members, and IACUC support personnel

Contact a Librarian

Combine your knowledge of research questions and technical terms with the searching expertise of an information specialist or medical librarian to achieve more optimal results. UT Librarians are here to help you in a variety of research tasks, so feel free to reach out to one.

Jeanine Williamson Fletcher: Veterinary Medicine:

Chat with Pendergrass staff in a text-based chat window.

Reach out to one of the other subject liaison librarians using this directory.

Project Steps

The literature review process for your IACUC report will generally follow these steps:

  1. Develop your research question
  2. Create a searching strategy
  3. Choose appropriate databases and conduct your search
  4. Manage your results and assess your success
  5. Summarize findings in your IACUC report

The Animal Welfare Information Center also offers a helpful brochure (link opens in a new tab) that outlines steps in the literature review process

Developing a Question

  • Use the PICO method to define the scope and purpose of your research project.
  • Create lists of keywords, subject headings, and search terms related to the three Rs using appropriate disciplinary thesauri. To identify keywords, the National Agriculture Library's Thesaurus or the FAO's AGROVOC may be helpful. (Links open in new tabs)
  • Use your list of terms, boolean operators, truncation, and phrase searching to construct queries for your project. We recommend contacting a librarian to develop the most successful search queries.
  • Be sure to keep records of search queries used in order to replicate searches using different databases.

Searching Strategies

Application of search strategies is crucial to the success of your literature review. The USDA's Animal Welfare Information Center has several search examples (opens in a new tab) to help searchers understand how to effectively search databases.

Boolean Operators

The Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT can be used to develop a search. While AND and NOT narrow a search, OR expands it and can increase the number of results.


By using parentheses in search queries, more synonyms and spelling variations can be found in a literature review.

For example:

(bull OR beef OR cattle) AND (dehorn* OR disbud*)


The use of wildcards (in this case the asterisk *) will allow the searcher to retrieve results from all forms of a word.

For example:

The search term educat* will retrieve educate, educator, education, and educational.

Cited Reference Searches

Cited reference searches can be highly effective when searching for animal alternatives and can quickly be accomplished using Google Scholar. 

To perform a cited reference search, copy the title of a scholarly article into the Google Scholar search bar and click “Cited by X” to find relevant articles. Additionally, Google Scholar will return how many times the article has been indexed by journals in Web of Science. While Google Scholar should not be used as a primary searching database, it can be used to quickly find some relevant articles.

MeSH Search Terms in PubMed Central

PubMed indexes the content of its catalog with a controlled vocabulary known as MEdical Subject Headings. These terms are organized into a hierarchy and assists in effectively searching the corpus available in PubMed. Users will greatly benefit from learning the structure of MeSH terms using PubMed tutorials.

To discover specific MeSH terms, users can search for specific terms here. Alternatively, PubMed can identify MeSH terms in an abstract and return similar articles using MeSH on Demand.

Search Tutorials

(All of the following links will open in new tabs)


PubMed provides a variety of training materials to help users successfully execute their searches. This Learning Resources Database hosts  Quick Tours, Tutorials, Webinars, and Handouts.


The USDA National Agricultural Library's Animal Welfare Information Center provides a variety of tutorials, brochures, worksheets, and other resources to help users maximize the effectiveness of animal alternative literature searches.


The NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare: Meeting the Requirements for Alternatives Searches is an hour long seminar from 2014 that thoughtfully addresses the processes in animal alternatives searching.

Search Example

in PubMed:

#1 mesocricetus auratus OR golden hamster* OR syrian hamster* (25,393 results)

#2 infect* OR challenge OR innculat* (3,803,396 results)

#3 (“COVID-19”[nm] OR “COVID-19 diagnostic testing”[nm] OR “COVID-19 drug treatment”[nm] OR “COVID-19 serotherapy”[nm] OR “COVID-19 vaccine”[nm] OR “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”[nm] OR 2019-ncov*[tiab] OR 2019ncov*[tiab] OR 2019-novel-cov*[tiab] OR coronavirus[ti] OR coronavirus-2*[tiab] OR coronavirus-disease-19*[tiab] OR corona-virus-disease-19*[tiab] OR coronavirus-disease-20*[tiab] OR corona-virus-disease-20*[tiab] OR covid-19*[tiab] OR covid19*[tiab] OR covid-20*[tiab] OR covid20*[tiab] OR ncov-2019*[tiab] OR ncov2019*[tiab] OR new-coronavirus[tiab] OR new-corona-virus[tiab] OR novel-coronavirus[tiab] OR novel-corona-virus[tiab] OR sars-2*[tiab] OR sars2*[tiab] OR sars-cov-19*[tiab] OR sars-cov19*[tiab] OR sarscov19*[tiab] OR sarscov-19*[tiab] OR sars-cov-2*[tiab] OR sars-cov2*[tiab] OR sarscov2*[tiab] OR sarscov-2*[tiab] OR ((“Coronavirus”[mh] OR “Coronavirus Infections”[mh] OR betacoronavirus[tiab] OR beta-coronavirus[tiab] OR beta-corona-virus[tiab] OR corona-virus[tiab] OR coronavirus[tiab] OR sars*[tiab] OR severe-acute-respiratory*[tiab]) AND (2019[tiab] OR 2020[tiab] OR wuhan*[tiab] OR hubei*[tiab] OR china*[tiab] OR chinese*[tiab] OR outbreak*[tiab] OR epidemic*[tiab] OR pandemic*[tiab])))  (302,700 results)

#4 analgesic OR analgesia OR anesthesia OR anesthetic OR anaesthesia OR anaesthetic OR pain management (1,461,613 results)


#1 AND #2 AND #3 AND #4 (4 results)


Note that this search uses a building block approach that can be done in most database, Proper use of Boolean logic allows significant narrowing of the search,  A search "hedge" from the internet is used for the coronavirus terms.