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Animal Welfare and Alternative Models

Step 1

Develop a search strategy. Consider all the key concepts and keywords associated with those concepts. List possible alternative names for the same concepts.

Keywords might include:

  • names of specific animal models
  • species being used
  • organ systems
  • names of hormones, enzymes, or pharmaceuticals
  • names of specific procedures or tests

Consider using subject searching along with keyword searching.  Because different people use different words to describe the same thing, some databases, such as PyscINFO, have a thesaurus which will allow you to find the exact term that database uses for any given concept. These are called subject terms, index terms or descriptors, depending on the database. Others, such as Web of Science, have descriptors listed in the records for an indexed article. Look at the one of the relevant articles you found and see what descriptors are listed. Try using those descriptors to search for other relevant materials.

Examples of indexing terminology:

  • acute toxicity tests (MeSH)
  • animal testing alternatives (MeSH)
  • animal use alternatives (MeSH)
  • animal welfare (MeSH, BIOSIS Previews)
  • handling (BIOSIS Previews)
  • housing (BIOSIS Previews)
  • models, animal (MeSH)
  • pain (BIOSIS Previews)
  • skin irritancy tests (MeSH)

Step 2

Choose databases relevant to your search.  You will notice that databases index literature in specific subject area. For example, PubMed primarily indexes literature about medicine and other health sciences, Biological Abstracts about life sciences, and PsycINFO about psychology.

Your search should include more than one database. An animal alternatives search should be comprehensive. No one single database or resource will include all the information that you will need. Although there may be some overlap in resources, since each database focuses more heavily on a particular discipline, you will find different resources in each database.

Step 3

Be prepared to adjust your search strategy as you go along. If you retrieve too many or too few results, the search terms may need to be adjusted.

If you get too many results:

  • Add more and/or unique terms to your search. For example, instead of searching for “mice AND housing” consider replacing housing with “cage,” which is a type of housing.
  • Check to see if there are limit options, such as date. Be careful; remember that you want your search to be comprehensive, so applying too many limits may result in missing important literature.

If you get too few results:

  • Make sure you have not misspelled terminology.
  • Generally, more keywords equals a more limited search. Try eliminating concepts.
  • Use the database’s thesaurus to find different terminology for your concepts.
  • Use truncation, which allows you to find words with different spelling variations (e.g., color and colour) or with different endings (e.g., plural). Databases often use a particular truncation symbol; check the database you are using to see what its symbol is. For example, the truncation symbol in PubMed is *. Typing "anesthe*" would find anesthesia, anesthesiology, etc.
  • Some databases have links to related articles. Use that link to locate literature that will be similar to what you have already found.

Key Literature Search Strategy Articles and Resources

John F. Kennedy Memorial Library
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8300