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Practical aspects of experimental design in animal research.

Johnson, P.D. and Besselsen, D.G.

Ilar Journal, 43(4), 202-204 (2002).

A brief overview is presented of the key steps involved in designing a research animal experiment, with reference to resources that specifically address each topic of discussion in more detail. After an idea for a research project is conceived, a thorough review of the literature and consultation with experts in that field are pursued to refine the problem statement and to assimilate background information that is necessary for the experimental design phase. A null and an alternate hypothesis that address the problem statement are then formulated, and only then is the specific design of the experiment developed. Likely the most critical step in designing animal experiments is the identification of the most appropriate animal model to address the experimental question being asked. Other practical considerations include defining the necessary control groups, randomly assigning animals to control/treatment groups, determining the number of animals needed per group, evaluating the logistics of the actual performance of the animal experiments, and identifying the most appropriate statistical analyses and potential collaborators experienced in the area of study. All of these factors are critical to designing an experiment that will generate scientifically valid and reproducible data, which should be considered the ultimate goal of any scientific investigation.