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Literature Search Strategy: Using Animals in Research: Alternatives: Replace, Reduce or Refine Keywords

Guide to searching and sources of information on animal care topics (includes alternatives and pharmaceuticals).

To Search Terms in PubMed

  • Click any of the hyperlinked search strings listed to run those terms as a search in PubMed. 
  • Use PubMed's Advanced option to combine results, work with sets, etc.

Boolean Operators

AND    is used to find information containing both (or all) search terms...means that both (or all) conditions must be present.
OR   is used to find information containing either one or the other search terms.


Truncation of terms

Truncation broadens a search to retrieve items containing various forms of a word.  For example:  model* could retrieve model, modelling, modeling, models etc.

Symbols used may be *, $, ?, or # (Database dependent ... PubMed uses * for right-hand truncation and Agricola uses * for either side).  

Dangers in using truncation? Yes, shortening the word too much may retrieve too many results - for example, rat* could retrieve ration or rationing, while you are hoping to retrieve anything with Rattus).


Reduce: Consider these keywords

Biomathmatical (or biomathematical model)
Computer, computer model
Mathematical model
Model (animal, cadaver, cadaveric, interactive, mathematical, neurological, statistical,    theoretical, modelling, modeling)
Simulation, simulator, simulate

Refine: Consider these keywords

Analgesic, anodyne, antinociceptive, hypnotic, sedative
Anesthesia, anaesthesia
Assay, technique, method, procedure
Bed, bedding, cage, caging, housing, well-being, comfort, handling
Cage, caging, housing, environmental enrichment, toy
Enrichment (behavioral, behavioural, environmental)
Experimental design
Handling, housing, husbandry, caging
Invasive, non-invasive
Monitoring device
Pain, painful, painless, suffer, suffering, ache, aches, stress, stressful, welfare, wellbeing
Physiochemical systems
Positive reinforcement
Postoperative, postsurgery
Procedure, procedures, method, methods, technique
Restraint, restrict, immobilize
Train, educate, teach, instruct

Replace (must animals be used?): Consider these keywords

Click terms to run search in PubMed:

Algae, fungus, hydra, plant, eukarya, Eukaryote
Amphibian, reptile, fish, cephalopod, insect, invertebrate
Artificial, mannequin, manikin, membrane, organ, organelle
Testing alternative, animal alternative, tissue culture, cell line, cell culture, cell substrate
Artificial intelligence system, AI
Assay, technique, method, procedure
Autopsy, biopsy
Bacteria, microorganism, protozoan, single-celled organism, yeast
Computer aided instruction, computer assisted instruction, CAI, computer simulation
Culture (cell, tissue, organ)
Digital imaging
Fish, cephalopod
Insect, invertebrate
Isolated (cell, tissue, organ)
Mannequin, manikin
Membrane, organ, organelle, slice, tissue, tissue equivalent
Model (animal, cadaveric, interactive, mathematical, neurological, statistical, theoretical), modelling, modeling
Replacement, surrogate
Simulation (computer)
Structure - activity relationship
Virtual (surgery, reality)
Vitro (method, model, technique)

If you want or need help with searching

The Moody Medical Library at UTMB has literature searching assistance available. We can help you create and run literature searches for alternatives. Contact Janet Burk at 409-772-2386 or to ask for assistance or to discuss your information needs.

The Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) outreach services also include literature searching assistance. AWIC information specialists are available to help you or will perform literature searches on a cost recovery basis. You may contact them at