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IACUC Resources and Searching Tips

The Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for the oversight of animal care and use in various programs. This guide provides resources and searching tips related to IACUC protocols.

Searching for Alternatives: Alternatives Literature Searching

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recommends a database search as the most effective and efficient method for demonstrating compliance with the requirement to consider alternatives to painful/distressful procedures. (USDAAPHISAnimal Care Policy #12: Consideration of Alternatives to Painful/Distressful Procedures)

-- From the National Agricultural Library's Alternatives Literature Searching page.

Other Databases - Finding Alternatives

Search Strategy

A step-by-step guide to systematically identify all relevant animal studies provides detailed guidance to conducting a systematic review with databases.  It explains what to do, as well as how and why to do each step.  An extraction of the headings results in this briefly outlined strategy:

  1. Formulate Research Question
Within animal research, a specific research question generally contains the following components: (1) intervention/exposure; (2) disease of interest/health problem; (3) animal/animal species/population studied; and (4) outcome measures. A well-formulated research question could then be: ‘What is the effect of [intervention/exposure] on [outcome measures] in [animal/animal species/population studied] for [disease of interest/health problem]?
  1. Identify appropriate databases and other sources to search
  2. Transform research question into search strategy (repeated for each database)
    1. Split research question into critical search components (SC)
    2. Identify relevant search terms for each SC 
      1. MeSH terms, subject headings, or other controlled vocabulary
      2. Free-text or natural language terms
    3. Combine all relevant terms for a SC into a one search string using Boolean “OR” 
      1. Note that low precision and many hits are common results for a comprehensive search strategy
      2. Evaluate search results and adjust search terms as appropriate
      3. Repeat for each database
    4. Combine all SC search strings using Boolean “AND”
    5. Evaluate search results and adjust terminology or limits as appropriate
      1. “In order to be as complete as possible, it is quite usual to have 3000–5000 hits.”
    6. Transfer search results into a reference manager program such as Endnote
  3. Collect search results of all databases and remove duplicate citations
  4. Identify potentially relevant papers
    1. Perform a quick screening of title and abstract to exclude citations that are clearly irrelevant
    2. Set criteria for study in- and exclusion for a secondary screening
      1. Document reasons for removal of citations for transparency and future study review



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