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Research Guides

Animal Welfare & Laboratory Animal Alternatives (IACUC Searches): General Approach

Conducting literature searches required by the Animal Welfare Act and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Identifying ways to reduce pain or distress in laboratory animals. Support for UW IACUC protocols

IACUC Protocol Searching Overview

Literature Searches for Protocols Submitted to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

Investigators are required to consider suitable alternatives to any procedures likely to cause animals pain or distress.

Investigation of suitable alternatives should address the 3 R's:

  • Replacement: Can the proposed animals be replaced with insentient animals or non-animal models such as in vitro or in silico methods?
  • Reduction: Can comparable levels of information be obtained from the use of fewer animals?  Is maximum information being obtained from a given number of animals without increasing pain or distress?
  • Refinement: Can experimental methods be refined to eliminate or reduce animal pain or distress? 

Each literature search should be conducted in at least two databases. If you want, you can search two databases at once by using either:

  • Embase which includes both Embase and Medline content;or
  • Web of Science which includes the Web of Science Core Collection and Medline content if you select "All Databases."


A useful approach is to:

  1. Search for papers that are studying what you are studying in your protocol
    Determine if you are duplicating work that's already been done.
    Review these references to look for experimental refinements and other potential ways to address the 3 R's.
  2. Conduct a separate search, consult an expert, or review other resources to look for:
    in vitro, in silico, or non-mammalian alternatives; and/or
    techniques for reducing pain and distress.

Overall Approach for Literature Searches

Step 1: Identify Key Concepts and Procedures in Your Protocol

  • Generate a list of search terms - including synonyms - based on these key concepts.


Step 2: Select Appropriate Databases


Step 3: Develop Your Search Strategy


Step 4: Document Searches

Life Sciences Librarian

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Diana Louden
Allen Library North, Room 281D

Key Sources