Skip to Main Content

IACUC Literature Searches: Before you begin

Goals for a Good Literature Search

A good literature search is one that helps you:

Avoid duplication in your experiments

Has your proposed experiment already been done by another researcher?

A good non-duplication literature search will help you find out and potentially avoid any unnecessary duplication.

Find all possible alternatives to using complex animals

Is there a way to answer your research question without using vertebrates? Can you answer it without using live animals at all?

A good literature search for alternatives will help you identify any options for replacing the vertebrate animals in your experiments.

Limit or avoid any painful or stressful procedures on those animals 

Is there a way to improve the overall well-being of the animals in your experiments? Are there less invasive procedures you can do that will still help you answer your research question? Are there any appropriate methods for pain management you can implement? Is there any way to provide a more habitable and less stressful environment for the animals?

A good literature search for alternatives will help you identify any options for refining your experiments and procedures to limit or avoid pain and stress.

Limit the number of animals used in your experiments

What is the lowest number of animals you can use in your experiments while still ensuring you have enough to determine statistical or biological significance?

A good literature search for alternatives will help you find relevant standards or guidance, or comparable studies you can use as a basis for a power analysis.

Before Beginning

As part of your protocol application, you will need to include several important pieces of information about your search:

  • The specific databases searched (e.g., Web of Science Core Collection, PubMed)
  • The date(s) the searches were run
  • The full search strategies used (including screenshots of the search history pages from each database searched)
  • A narrative that describes what you found from your searches

Therefore, before you begin searching for alternatives or to ensure non-duplication, you need to decide how you will manage and document your search. Keeping track of the entire search process, including the keywords you use, the databases you search, and the results you find, is a critical part of the protocol application.