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IACUC Alternatives Research Source Selection Aid: Choose Your Alternatives Sources

UNC IACUC Animal Alternatives Search Database Selection Guide

Created by Health Science Librarians

IACUC Alternatives Searching Source Requirements

The UNC IACUC will require you to search at least two databases. This guide can help you select the most useful for your specific protocol.

Database Selection Tips

Click on the type of database at the left of this screen to find recommended choices.

Red Flags for Reviewers

The following are RED FLAGS for IACUC reviewers. Be careful to avoid them in your searching.

  • Animal Welfare Information Center (USDA AWIC) Red Flags
    • Only 1 database searched
    • Terms included only for painful aspects
    • The term “alternative” used alone
    • Keywords not relevant to the protocol
    • Keywords and concepts linked incorrectly
    • Inadequate time period searched (less than 5 years)


    • Use it to find useful news, contacts or articles, and to further search for similar funded research projects, but do not rely on it for any kind of thorough research
      • Its coverage is incomplete and includes many low-quality and predatory sources
      • It is not acceptable as a research or alternatives database for the IACUC

Samples of Boolean Search Strategy

The IACUC requires you to record and include a sample of your search strategy. If your source will accept Boolean logic, use a sample string. If it does not, use a one-sentence narrative about your search words and processes.

Boolean logic is a code format that tells almost all databases exactly what results you want to find. You can use it to tell the database how to limit or expand your search. The basics :

  • AND - each term must be found in all of your results
    • example : ketamine AND xylazine
    • results : every article includes both ketamine and xylazine
  • OR - either or both terms must be found in all of your results
    • example : rompun OR xylazine OR anased
    • results : every article includes at least one but not necessarily all of the terms searched
  • NOT - the subsequent term will be eliminated from all of your results
    • example : xylazine NOT anased
    • results : every article includes xylazine, but no articles include anased
    • tip : only use NOT at the end of a search string
  • ( ) - use parentheses to build compound search strings
    • example : (rompun OR xylazine OR anased) NOT clonidine
    • results : every article includes either of the terms within parentheses, but none include clonidine
  • " " - use commas to tell the database that the enclosed term must be found in the exact order & form as entered
    • example : "alpha 2 adrenergic agonist"
    • results : every article includes the phrases alpha 2 adrenergic agonist exactly as written; in other words, it would not include any articles that just had the word alpha, or adrenergic agonist, or alpha2 adrenergic agonists
    • tip : this will search EXACTLY for what is included and will not correct for spelling errors or extra spaces or punctuation

Further Help

You are welcome to contact a science or health sciences librarian for assistance in selecting the most useful database for your protocol.

If your reviewers ask you to seek librarian assistance, please contact the Health Sciences Library.