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Literature Search Help for Animal Research

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

Literature Search

A complete literature search can help you:

  • Humane use of animals in research
  • No unnecessary duplication of previous experiments
  • Alternatives for research or procedures have been considered
  • Protection of animals during the research process
  • Provide evidence to support the research and methods

AWIC Tips for Searching

Considerations for establishing search criteria (may be helpful to answer these questions):

  1. What is your general area of study (e.g., cardiology, neurology, toxicology, etc.)?
  2. What species are you working with?
  3. Briefly describe your protocol.
  4. What specific systems or part of the anatomy are involved?
  5. List correct spellings of these structures (include European spellings).
  6. If studying effects of particular enzyme, hormone, chemical agent, etc., provide complete spelling and include trade name and acronym.
  7. Have you published any literature that related to your study?  Do you know of any prominent authors in your area of research?
  8. What makes your study unique from previous studies (e.g., testing a new technique, investigating a new compound)?
  9. Are you aware of any possible alternatives to your research, such as experiments on alternative species, cell culture, or in vitro studies?

See AWIC full document for additional assistance and recommendations. These questions are available below as a word doc, if you wish to print and complete as a form.

Library Tips for Searching

  1. Formulate the question: Typically, a focused research question will consist of a disease of interest or health problem or an intervention or exposure.
  2. Identify databases: select all relevant databases or sources of studies that seem appropriate for your topic, check all sources including reference lists.
  3. Run literature search: Split the questions into concepts and their synonyms then combine your concepts to create a search string to run in the databases. 
  4. Filter search results: Identify appropriate search results, document your search strategy and methods, and save citations.

Combine keywords using Boolean Operators (AND & OR)

  • OR is expansive; good for synonym building with like concepts
    (ex. fruit or apples or oranges or bananas – ANY concepts can be present)
  • AND is restrictive; forces topics to overlap
    (ex. Oranges AND vitamin C – BOTH concepts must be present))

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).

Can specify words appear close together but further apart than an exact phrase

  • PubMed does NOT have proximity operators
  • Ovid (Medline, PsycInfo)  = adj# 
    Example: peer* adj2 assess* will find peer assessment and also assessed by their peers
  • EBSCO (CINAHL, ERIC) = N#
    Example: peer* N2 assess*
  • May use parentheses to group synonyms – watch for typos!!
    Example: peer* adj2 (evaluat* or assess* or feedback or grad*)