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Animal Alternatives: Literature Searching for Animal Research: A Guide

Search strategies and advice for IACUC Literature Search

Steps in the Research Process

As a laboratory researcher, you are fully aware that all research follows definable steps from beginning to end. Literature research is also based on a "scientific method" of sorts.

1) Define the Question
In this step, you brainstorm your possible keywords and subject headings to include in your literature search.  Not only should you consider terminology specific to your research protocol, but you should also think of keywords and subject headings related to the 3R's. 

2) Construct a Search Strategy
After developing keyword lists, you will need to think about how to put these terms together into a search strategy.  The search strategy may include Boolean  (AND/OR/NOT), truncation (* ?), and/or phrase searching( " ") to expand or limit your search.

3) Select & Search a Database
Selecting appropriate databases to search may be the most critical step in the search process. You will need to tailor your keywords, subject headings, and search strategy for each database. 

4) Evaluate Your Search
Literature searching is not a linear process. It is important to stop and evaluate your results as you go along in order to make modifications and improvements to your search strategies. Just like laboratory research, literature searching is an iterative process!

5) Manage Your Results
After conducting your searches, you will need a way to keep track of the information that you have located. A citation manager can help you to organize your search results.

6) Report Your Results
You must provide a written narrative of your results.  There are a number of minimum points which you will need to include in that narrative, including information about the search strategies and databases that you used.