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IACUC Alternatives Searching

A literature review for alternatives is a legally required component of a protocol classified as category D or E. This guide will walk you through structuring an effective literature review, selecting databases to use, and provide helpful tips in developi

Getting Started

Creating a Search Question

When starting any literature review, best practice is to start with a question or statement you would like to research. While the research question will of course be tied to the protocol and procedures, it's important to think of the question as including the alternative area you'd like to search. 

For example, if a procedure requires the collection of rabbit urine. One potential alternative may be the method of collection. One question to ask might be as follows:

  • What are alternatives for urine collection that can reduce stress in rabbits? 

This question is looking for potential refinements to procedures.

Create Concepts from Search Question

Suss out the main concepts of your search and generate terms that might be possible alternatives for your protocol. Note that it will not be an effective search strategy if you have "alternative" as one of your concepts and don't expand upon that term. Rather, you should research and brainstorm alternate modes of achieving similar results that you could potentially use as an alternative in your research.

Common practice is to use the following concepts as applicable to your protocol:

  • Species
  • Anatomy, organ systems or tissue 
  • Condition, treatment, disease, hormones, etc. 
  • Alternative (think about the three R's: reduce, replace, refine)

Example search:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
Rabbits Urine collection Alternatives

Next, generate terms that can stand in for one of your concepts. This doesn't have to be exhaustive, but listing for instance the species name of the type of rabbits you will study is good practice. Maybe there is a specific strain of animal you are focusing on. And of course, you'll want to expand concept 3, which right now is just alternatives.

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
Rabbits Urine collection Alternatives
"Oryctolagus cuniculus" Urine Methods
"O. cuniculus"  

Reduce stress, stress reduction

    Metabolism cages

Next, connect your concepts with boolean operators, truncation, and nesting to allow the search system to hone in on the desired topics.

(Rabbit* OR "Oryctolagus cuniculus" OR "O. cuniculus") AND (Urine OR "Urine collect*") AND (alternative* OR method* OR "reduce stress" OR "stress reduction" OR "metabolism cage*" OR housing)

Now, you have a string that you can plug into databases. 

Alternatives Term Bank

We know that the term alternatives alone can lead to incomplete results. The chart below contains terms you might consider using in addition to "alternatives." 

General: animal testing alternative | assay | distress | euthanasia | learn | learning | method |
model | pain | replace | replacement | surrogate | system | teach | teaching | technique

Replacement: aided/assisted | artificial | cadaver | computers | image | imaging | instruction |
interactive | mathematical model(ing) | model(ing) | prediction | simulation | software |
teaching | theoretical model(ing) | virtual

Reduction: statistics | statistical analysis | experimental design | model | reduce | reduction

Refinement: distress | (non-)invasive | pain | postoperative | postsurgery | stress | anesthesia | anesthetic | analgesia | analgesic | anxiolytic | sedative | animal cage | animal caging | animal euthanasia | animal housing | animal husbandry | animal welfare

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