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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).

To Search Terms in PubMed

Looking for literature that can help you:

  • avoid or mitigate pain caused to the animal
  • reduce amount of pain the animal might endure
  • use fewer procedures or handle animal fewer times
  • improve the animal's living conditions
  • refine the procedures (injections, surgical methods, etc.) used on the animal

To Begin Searching:

  • Click any of the hyperlinked search strings listed to run those terms as a search in PubMed. 
  • Copy & Paste the alternative search strings to run those terms in PubMed (make sure to add OR between synonymous terms). 
  • Use PubMed's Advanced option to combine results, work with sets, etc.

MeSH Terms

MeSH Subject Headings are a powerful way to search in the databases to find relevant articles. MeSH headings are assigned to articles by the indexers of the databases and are intended to provide a consistent and accurate representation of the aboutness of an article. PubMed provides a MeSH Database to help identify the best terms to use for your search, below are some MeSH terms that could apply to alternative research methods in animal studies:

  • "Animal Use Alternatives"[Mesh]
  • "Animal Testing Alternatives"[MESH]
  • "Animals, Laboratory"[MESH]
  • "Animal Husbandry"[MESH]
  • "Animal Welfare"[MESH]
  • "Euthanasia, Animal"[MESH]
  • "Housing, Animal"[MESH]
  • "Investigative Techniques"[MESH]
  • "Laboratory Animal Science"[MESH]
  • "Models, Animal"[MESH]
  • "Research Design"[MESH]

Reduction Keywords (methods that minimize the number of animals that need to be used for an experiment):

Biomathematics, biomathematical model
Computer, computer model
Model (animal, cadaver, interactive, mathematical, neurological, statistical, theoretical)

Refinement Keywords (employ methods that reduce pain and distress, suffering, or lasting harm to animals during experiments):

Analgesic, anodyne, antinociceptive, hypnotic, sedative, tranquilizer
Anesthesia, anaesthesia
Animal Husbandry
Analysis, technique, method, procedure
Bed, bedding
Cage, caging, housing
Comfort, handling
Enrichment (behavioral, environmental)
Experimental design
Invasive, non-invasive
Monitoring device
Pain, painful, painless, suffer, aches, stress, welfare, well-being
Physiochemical systems
Positive reinforcement
Postoperative, postsurgery
Restraint, restrict, immobilize
Train, educate, teach, instruct

Replacement Keywords (technologies/approaches that replace or avoid the use of animals with non-animal methods):

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
Cadaver, carcass
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
Non-animal model
Replacement, surrogate
Simulation (computer)
Structure - activity relationship
Virtual (surgery, reality)
Vitro (method, model, technique)