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Meeting the Information Requirements for Animal Use Protocols (IACUC Resources): Home


USU Principal Investigators (PI's) are required to perform a literature search in order to:

  • Ensure that the research they are about to perform is not a "duplication of effort"
  • Investigate alternatives to painful procedures if any of the animals in their protocol are in pain category D or E

Questions to consider when planning your research include*:

  • Can I reduce the number of animals used?
  • Can I refine procedures to minimize pain or distress?
  • Can I replace animal models with non-animal models, or with species lower on the phylogenetic scale?

*Adapted from: Russell WMS and Burch RL (1959) The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique.

Duplication Search

Creating a Search Strategy

Before you begin searching, a solid search strategy can make subsequent work faster, easier, and more systematic.

Some databases search for articles using a "Controlled Vocabulary." Controlled vocabularies standardize terms and concepts from diverse authors, geographic regions, time periods, or disciplines. When searching a database with a controlled vocabulary, for example, a searcher using the preferred term for "pig" can rest assured that he or she is retrieving articles where the animals may have been referred to as "pig," "pigs," "swine," "hogs," or S. domestica. When you search a database that does not have a controlled vocabulary - or if you are not searching using that vocabulary - be prepared to enter synonyms manually. When relying upon keywords rather than controlled vocabulary terms, many databases allow you to link synonyms using the Boolean connecting term "OR." For example, a search for swine might be entered (pig OR pigs OR hog OR hogs OR swine OR "Sus domesticus")

As you map out your search strategy, identify 2 or more topics you will search for in combination.

Suggested topics include:

  1. Subjects (i.e. the proposed animal species)
  2. Anatomical Systems being studied
  3. Drugs or Compounds being used
  4. Methods and Procedures being used
  5. Alternative interventions (i.e. alternative drugs or procedures)

Remember to brainstorm not only topics, but variant word endings and synonyms you may need to use.

If you are updating a previous protocol, you may wish to only search for new articles published since you conducted your last search.

The Animal Welfare Information Center provides a search worksheet (PDF) you may find helpful.

Selecting which Databases to Search

A thorough search will include not only the databases mandated by DoD Regulations, but additional databases appropriate to the subject area.

Mandatory Databases

DoD Regulations mandate that a duplication search must be performed in:

Developed from federally funded research, testing and training programs.


  1. The BRD database is no longer available. Use the Research Project database instead. You must access this database using your CAC on a Windows computer.
  2. You must be logged-in to the LRC's website for FedRIP to work.
  3. You may run across documentation requiring a search in the CRISP database. As of Oct. 31, 2009, this database is no longer supported. NIH RePORTER has taken its place.

Alternatives to Painful Procedures Search

In addition to demonstrating that research does not duplicate existing research, Principal Investigators must demonstrate that they have searched for and evaluated alternatives to procedures that cause pain and distress. Generally, PIs are asked to consider "the three Rs" when conducting an alternatives search: Reduce the number of animals used, Refine methods to minimize pain and distress, and Replace an animal model with a species that is phylogenetically lower or with a non-animal model.

There are not firm requirements for which databases that must be searched. The LRC recommends one or more of the following:

When crafting a search strategy, include the painful/distressful method or procedure being used, the parameter being measured or the type of sample being collected, and the animal species. 

Some recommended terms for searching for alternatives include:

  • Reduction & Refinement: advers*, analges*, anesthes*, anasthe*, anaesthe*, anxiolytic, environment*, enrich*, euthanasia, euthanize*, handl*, hous*, cag*, monitor*, device*, reduc*, refin* restrain*, restrict*, tranquiliz*, pain*, distress*, stress*, welfare, positive reinforce*, immobil*, technique*, method*, procedur*, assay*, train*, educat*, teach*, instruct*
  • Replacement: alternative*, animal testing alternative*, animal use alternative*, assay*, technique*, method*, bacter*, cadaver*, culture*, fish*, cephalopod*, handl*, hous*, cag*, invertebrate*, isolated mannequin* manikin* model*, replace* simulat*, software, computer*, train*, educat*, teach*, instruct*, video*, virtual*, vitro*

Presenting Your Results to the IACUC

Presenting Your Results to the IACUC

When presenting your search results to the IACUC, please be sure to include:

  1. Date the search was performed.
  2. Period of time the search covered.
  3. The names of the databases searched.
  4. Search terms with search strategy. Please note that a list of search terms, by itself, is insufficient. The search strategy must also be included.
  5. A Summary of the Relevant Results

Red Flags for Inadequate Searches

The following items are considered "warning signs" of inadequate searches:

  • Only one database was searched
  • The search did not cover an adequate time period
  • A faulty search strategy which incorrectly linked keywords and concepts
  • The term "alternative" was used alone, without alternate terms or concepts.

Contact the LRC



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Rhonda Allard

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Rhonda J. Allard
James A. Zimble Learning Resource Center • 4301 Jones Bridge Rd. Bethesda, MD 20814 • Main Number: 301-295-3189 • AMI Helpdesk: 301-295-3358

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