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Searching for Alternatives

This guide will help researchers complete the literature search needed to fulfill the regulations of finding alternatives to using animals in scientific research and ensuring there is no duplication of research efforts.


According to Policy 12, at the minimum, you must provide the following information about your alternative search as part of your proposed protocol:

1. the names of the databases searched;

2. the date the search was performed;

3. the period covered by the search; and

4. the key words and/or the search strategy used.

A narrative describing your findings can also be helpful. See for some questions that can help complete a narrative.

For the complete Animal Care Welfare Manual, see:



Tips for Evaluating Searches

IACUC members have some "red flags" they look for when evaluating an alternative search. Take a look at these "red flags" and be sure your search doesn't raise one.

  • Search completed at the last minute. (The search should be part of the protocol development).
  • Only one database is searched. A minimum of two databases consulted is required. Remember, Medline is a subset of what is found in PubMed; searching both only counts as one database.
  • Terms only for painful aspects are searched.
  • The term "alternative" is used alone with no other alternative terms.
  • Keywords listed not relevant to protocol.
  • Keywords and concepts linked in an incorrect manner (e.g. wrong Boolean operators).
  • Search doesn’t cover adequate time period (5-10 years).


Relevant Articles on Anesthesia and Decapitation

These are some "classic" articles regarding decapitation and anesthesia for animal experimentation.

PubMed vs. Medline

Remember, Medline is a subset of what is found in PubMed; searching both only counts as one database. See the fact sheet, What's the Difference Between MEDLINE® and PubMed®?, at

Scopus vs. Medline

Scopus contains 100% of the Medline database back to 1996. Searching Scopus is an excellent resource for your searches, but remember, you cannot use Scopus and Medline (from 1996 to the present) to count as your two databases. Medline is already a part of Scopus.

See for Scopus coverage.

PubMed vs. Toxline

If you are using TOXLINE and PUBMED for your two databases to fulfill your alternative search requirement, be sure to say NO to the option of including PubMed records. You will only include duplicate articles.

Google Scholar and PubMed

According to Google, all of PubMed can be found in Google Scholar. Therefore, searching Google Scholar and PubMed CANNOT count as two databases.