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Searching the Literature for Animal Testing Alternatives: A Tutorial: Step 3 : Select Databases

Tutorial for researching alternatives to animal research

Created by Health Science Librarians

Step 2: Select Databases

After constructing a good search question, the next most important step in literature searches is selecting the most appropriate databases. 

When searching for animal research alternatives, it is very important to look in more than one database. The USDA's Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) identifies choosing just one database as a RED FLAG that may result in your problems with your search.


The following types of databases are commonly useful for animal alternatives literature searching, though there are many more available through the UNC Libraries:

  • Recommended Research Databases - These research databases have been recommended by OLAW, AALECi, or similar organizations as being suitable for animal alternatives literature searching. Most are listed on UNC's IACUC form as suggested options.

  • Specialized Alternatives Databases - Databases that contain materials specifically relevant to the reduction, refinement, and replacement of animals in laboratory research and teaching can be of particular utility to your literature search. These databases often include a broader range of useful resources than other databases, including videotapes and software packages in addition to peer-reviewed articles.

It is highly recommended by the Library that you choose both PubMed/MEDLINE or whichever other database is most relevant to your area of study or practice and at least one other resource in order to find a complete picture of possible alternatives. 

General Information

Animal Alternatives Search Database Selection Guide

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

Red Flag for Reviewers

  • 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

Further Help

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

Broad Biomedical and Biological Science Databases

Broad Biomedical and Biological Science Databases

Choose a database that includes a very wide range of biomedical, biological and other disciplines.

Databases by Protocol or Method Type

Education or Training Protocol

Is your protocol focused on classroom education or student training?

Behavioral/Neuropsychological Protocol

Is your protocol focused on behavioral or neuropsychological research?

Toxicological or Pharmaceutical Protocol

Is your protocol focused on toxicological or pharmaceutical research?

Databases by Animal Model

Rodents & Other Small Mammals

Is your animal model a rodent or other animal commonly used in laboratory research?


Is your animal model a non-human primate?

Fish, Amphibians & Reptiles

Is your animal model aquatic, a reptile, or an amphibian?

Agricultural Animals & Fowl

Is your animal model an agricultural animal or fowl?


Is your animal model considered wildlife?

Databases based on the Alternatives and 3Rs Focused Resources

Animal Alternatives Resources

Find discussion and research about alternatives and the 3Rs:

Funded Research Project Databases

Funded Research Project Databases

Find existing funded research projects.

Database Searching Tutorials Sources

There are many tutorials available to aid in searching specific databases. The following are only some of those that may be found; there are often more available through the database home help screens.