The United States Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Information Center (USDA AWIC) recommends a two-phase approach to searching the literature. They designed a worksheet to assist researchers, information specialists, and IACUC members determine if alternatives exist and whether the protocol unnecessarily duplicates previous research.
Other countries also have animal welfare laws and regulations similar to the United States, and their governing bodies have created guides to alternatives that may also be helpful.
An effective literature search strategy incorporates keywords and concepts that describe the project and/or areas of study. The original project literature search can serve as the foundation for an animal alternatives search by adding keywords used in the scope of the 3Rs (refine, reduce, replace). Controlled vocabulary terms for locating animal alternatives can be used in databases to search for specific animals, procedures, chemicals, etc. and narrow results to improve their relevancy to the search.
A number of universities have created guides and tutorials on searching the literature for animal alternatives. These can be helpful but keep in mind available resources may differ, and always refer back to MSU policies and guidelines.
AWIC provides sample search strategies to show how to structure a search. They are examples only and are not meant to be the only way to retrieve information, and the methodology with depend on the database used. There is also an sample search summary showing one option for documenting literature searches.