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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.

Search Strategy Help

Developing a Search Strategy

  • Formulate your research question.

Write out your research thesis as completely as possible. If there are multiple objectives, write a statement for each one.

  •  Break the question down into various concepts.

Do this for each research question you developed, above.

  •  Identify synonyms.

For each concept, list various synonyms.

-     generic and trade names for drugs

-     variant spellings (i.e., "estrogen" OR "oestrogen")

-     abbreviations ("ALS" OR "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis")

  • Use truncation.

Truncation allows you to search for the root of a word and all its variant endings.  

-          The asterisk -- * -- is the most common truncation symbol. It is used in PubMed.

-          Using the *, for example, "diabet*" retrieves "diabetes", "diabetic", "diabetics", and so on. Truncating too soon will give you inaccurate results. for example, "diab*" can retrieve words like "diabolical"

  • Combine search concepts.

Searching for one concept at a time and only then combining the sets using Boolean Operators will allow you the greatest flexibility in searching.

-          Search for one concept and it synonyms at a time.

-          Combine the one concept and it synonyms using “OR”.

-          Combine the major concepts using "AND”.

-          Boolean Operators

-          Using "AND"

-          Requires that ALL terms are present in the article.

-          Narrows your search (you get fewer articles than are in each set)

-          Example: a search for "diabetes AND insulin therapy" will retrieve articles containing both terms


Using "OR"

-          Allows EITHER term to be present in each article

-          Broadens your search

-          Example: a search for "anorexia OR bulimia" retrieves articles that mention either condition

Using "ADJ#"

-         Looks for two terms that are adjacent to one another in the article

-         "Herpes ADJ1 Simplex" will find articles with the terms next to each other

-         "Herpes ADJ3 Simplex" will find the terms within three words of each other