A thorough literature search should be undertaken, to prevent unnecessary repetition of animal studies and to ensure optimal design of new protocols, including the implementation of refinements to methodology.
The use of systematic reviews to draw new conclusions from already published data, instead of planning new animal studies, should also be considered ('Towards Evidence-Based Research').
Literature searches should be well documented, including information on:

  1. The databases and other sources used, and dates of access
  2. The keywords and search components used
  3. The information centres consulted
  4. Evidence that the animal studies have not been performed previously, or that repetition is justified
  5. Consultation of relevant guidelines for specific parts of the study
  6. The justification for the choice of species and (where applicable) the strain
  7. Evaluation of the biology, behaviour and welfare needs of the species to be used
  8. The likelihood of reproducibility of the studies in another location. This is particularly important in experiments on aquatic organisms, where local variations in water chemistry may be crucial
  9. The likelihood, if relevant, of translatability to other species

Extensive guidance on literature searching is available (e.g. the EURL ECVAM Search Guide). Use of databases which generate unique URLs when searches are performed, such as the Norecopa website, are preferable, since this facilitates repetition and evaluation of the search.

More resources

Worksheet for a literature search for alternatives (USDA/ARS/NAL/AWIC)
TextBase: a database of textbooks and other literature within Laboratory Animal Science and related topics
Write a Scientific Abstract in 6 Steps 

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