Skip to Main Content

IACUC: The 3Rs and the Literature Search

MeSH Terms

In general, when searching PubMed or one of the other MEDLINE interfaces it is a good idea to use the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to find relevant articles. PubMed includes a searchable MeSH Database to help you identify the best terms for your search. There are a number of MeSH terms that apply to a literature search for alternative research methods in animal studies. Whenever one of these terms is used, be sure to include the [MESH] notation so that the system is triggered to look for the term as a subject heading and not a phrase.

Sample standard MeSH terms (click on the keyword to see the MeSH definition, if available):


"Animal Use Alternatives" [MeSH]

"Animal Testing Alternatives"[MeSH]

"Models, Animal"[MeSH]

"Animal Husbandry"[MeSH]

"Animal Welfare"[MeSH]

"Animals, Laboratory" [MeSH]


"Housing, Animal"[MESH]

"Laboratory Animal Science"[MESH]

"Investigative Techniques"[MESH]

"Research Design"[MESH]

"Pain" [MeSH]

"Stress, Physiological" [MeSH]

These terms can be combined to produce generalized searches for major topics in animal testing, including the health, welfare, and housing of animal subjects.

Sample Searches Using MeSH

Sample Searches Using MeSH

Pain and/or Stress Prevention and Control: ("stress, physiological/prevention and control"[MESH] OR "pain/prevention and control"[MESH] OR "stress, physiological/veterinary"[MESH] OR pain/veterinary"[MESH]) AND "animal welfare"[MESH] AND ("animals, laboratory"[MESH] OR "research design"[MESH]) Search!

Laboratory Animal Welfare: "animal welfare"[MESH] AND "animals, laboratory "[MESH]) Search!

Housing, Including Cages and Caging: ("animal husbandry"[MESH] OR "animal welfare"[MESH] OR "housing, animal"[MESH]) AND "animals, laboratory"[MESH] AND (caging OR cage* OR "housing, animal"[MESH]) Search!

Transgenic Mice: "mice, transgenic"[MESH] AND ("animal welfare"[MESH] OR "Animal Testing Alternatives"[MESH] Search!

Handling: "animals, laboratory"[MESH] AND "animal husbandry"[MESH] AND ("handling (psychology)"[MESH] OR handling[Text Word]) Search!


  • To exclude animals and humans:
    YOUR TOPIC/OBJECTIVE NOT ("Animals"[Mesh] OR "Humans"[Mesh]) Search!
  • To include possible non-animal models/methods:
    YOUR TOPIC/OBJECTIVE AND (("Models, Theoretical"[Mesh] NOT "Disease Models, Animal"[Mesh]) OR "Computer Simulation"[Mesh] OR "Cadaver"[Mesh] OR "Culture Techniques"[Mesh] OR "Cells, Cultured"[Mesh] OR "In Vitro "[Publication Type]) Search!
  • To exclude mammals:
    YOUR TOPIC/OBJECTIVE AND "Animals" [Mesh] NOT "Mammals"[Mesh] Search!


  • To minimize pain:
    YOUR ANIMAL TYPE AND/OR PROCEDURE AND ("Central Nervous System Depressants"[Mesh] OR "Sensory System Agents"[Mesh] OR "Anesthesia and Analgesia"[Mesh]) Search!

  • To minimize complications:
    YOUR ANIMAL TYPE AND/OR PROCEDURE AND ("Intraoperative Complications"[Mesh] OR "Postoperative Complications"[Mesh] OR "Perioperative Care"[Mesh]) Search!

  • To improve animal welfare:
    YOUR ANIMAL TYPE AND "Animal Welfare"[Mesh] Search!

Prepared searches are from Chilov, Marina, Matsoukas, Konstantina, Ispahany, Nighat, Allen, Tracy Y. and Lustbader, Joyce W.(2007)'Using MeSH to Search for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Research', Medical Reference Services Quarterly,26:3,55 — 74. PMID: 17915631, as reproduced by Duke University's Medical Center Library & Archives.