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Alternatives to Animal Testing & Compliance Guide

Developing your search

    Getting Started on Your Literature Search    

A literature search has a method like any other you will use in your research.


Before starting your search, create a list of search terms or concepts:

  • Disease or symptom 
  • Organ, gene, or physical location of the body
  • Interventions or experiments planned
  • Species being used
  • Outcomes being studied 


 A Few Tips and Ideas: 

  • Most databases utilize a "controlled vocabulary."  A good search will combine the controlled vocabulary terms, natural language terms, and synonyms for those terms.  PubMed calls "MeSH," an abbreviation for Medical Subject Headings their controlled vocabulary. If you look up the term "Cancer" in Mesh, you will get the PubMed's controlled vocabulary term "Neoplasm."  An example of a more thorough search combines both MeSH terms and natural language like this: ("Neoplasms"[Mesh] OR cancer OR tumor OR carcinoma OR sarcoma OR malignancy)‚Äč.  "Neoplasm" is the MeSH term and "cancer" is the natural language term, while the words that follow "cancer" are synonyms.  Include all in your search to retrieve as many articles under the topic as possible.  You will want to use as many synonyms for the MeSH natural language terms that you can think of in order to bring up the most articles.

  • When you start your search, be as broad as possible with your search terms to see the total number of results of your concept. Once you know what you are working with in terms of search results, you can narrow and focus your concept and terminology.  It is not uncommon to retrieve thousands of results for a concept.

  • Use scientific and natural language when searching for species, drugs or substances, or organs and body parts.                   Example: ("Mice"[Mesh] OR mouse OR murine or rodent)

  • If your search includes a substance or drug, utilize the generic or trade name as well as the chemical name.  If there is a CAS registry number, use that in your search as well.


Reporting Search results

 Keep Track of Your Search

  • Record the date of your literature search and the databases searched.  Use at least two databases
  • Use the Search Worksheet to help guide your search.
  • Save at least one complete search strategy and note which database it was used in.  
  • Record the number of hits for each search.
  • Use a citation manager such as EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley, etc., to save articles found in your search.
  • Ideally, you will have two separate searches: alternatives to animals in your specific research study( Replacement & Reduction), and in the event that animals must be used, the management of their pain and discomfort (Refinement).