Skip to Main Content

IACUC: The 3Rs and the Literature Search

Defining the Search Question

  • List relevant subject terms and keywords. consider synonyms and alternate spellings.
    • Species, strain
    • Anatomy or tissue involved
    • Chemical compound names - generic and proper
  • List all procedures in the protocol.
    • Based on prior observation, consultation with a veterinarian, or some of the resources listed above, determine whether a particular procedure has the potential to cause pain or distress. It is best to err on the side of caution. If you are unsure if a technique is potentially painful, it is best to include it in your search strategy. In fact, some librarians recommend searching on every procedure in a protocol.
    • Each procedure should be viewed as an avenue to a goal. Considering the end result of the technique can help you to identify alternative procedures. For example, if a catheter is being used to monitor blood pressure, searching for this end result rather than the term "catheter" can possibly lead to the discovery of other techniques to accomplish the same goal.
    • When searching for different procedures in the literature, it is important not to make your search too narrow. If multiple techniques will be used in a protocol, each technique should be searched separately. Oftentimes the same procedure can be used in different research fields or with different species. Adding a term such as "mouse" or "immunology" to your search can restrict your results and exclude valuable information.
    • Identify other possible terms for each technique that you have identified; determine if a subject heading for each procedure exists in the database that you are using.
  • List search terms for the 3Rs.  These should be relevant to the study and can include the keywords and subject headings listed on the Keywords and MeSH search pages of this guide.
  • You are now ready to construct your search strategy.

General Refinement Resources

Policy #11 defines a painful procedure as "any procedure that would reasonably be expected to cause more than slight or momentary pain or distress in a human being to which that procedure is applied, that is, pain in excess of that caused by injections or other minor procedures." A few examples of painful/distressful procedures are listed on this page.

Policy #12 details the requirement of considering alternatatives to painful and distressful procedures, recommending a database search as the most effective method to determine alternatives.

A list of resources about pain management, alleviation, humane endpoints, and refinement techniques in various species

Assessment of Potentially Painful Procedures

Before searching for potentially painful procedures, it is necessary to determine which procedures in the protocol have the potential to cause pain or distress. This is not always a straightforward process; these resources can be a starting point for making those determinations.

"This article reviews methods of clinical pain assessment in animals, with reference to the techniques used in man. Techniques for pain alleviation are briefly reviewed."

Table 1-1 of this resource lists examples of painful procedures or conditions by type and anatomic location.

Complied by Dr. Richard L. Crawford of the AWIC

  • Consult your veterinarian!!