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DistillerSR Systematic Review Software: Users Share Their Experiences

“I consider undertaking a systematic review/meta-analysis an invitation for nightmares… this software makes the process infinitely more doable and accountable.”—DistillerSR User

In 2015, HSLS licensed DistillerSR, a web-based systematic review product, to assist researchers with their systematic review projects. Since HSLS began offering the product to teams that included a primary investigator affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh schools of the health sciences, and an HSLS librarian, over 300 users have registered for accounts and have used it to begin 93 systematic review projects.

To find out more about how teams were using DistillerSR and whether or not they perceived it as adding value to the systematic review process, users were invited to participate in an online survey and focus group discussions earlier this year.

Survey respondents generally reported a positive experience. A majority reported that they found using DistillerSR improved their systematic review experience in comparison to their systematic review experience without DistillerSR, and nearly 70% of those responding planned to use it again in the future.

Focus group participants elaborated that DistillerSR seems to be particularly helpful for larger projects because it can simplify the project management process. In addition, the ability to easily work with a large number of references and to have everything in one software program are seen as valuable.

The biggest challenge for DistillerSR users is the learning curve required. Although DistillerSR can improve efficiency by streamlining the process, it is still important that researchers are well-acquainted with systematic review methodology. If not, they may be overwhelmed by the addition of a new tool on top of a new research method.

In-person consultations with a DistillerSR librarian are now recommended at the beginning stages of the project. Other ideas for the future include the creation of a user group or listserv to facilitate discussion.

If you are interested in learning more about DistillerSR, please see the July 2017 HSLS Update article, “Need Help Screening Your Systematic Review?” or the HSLS DistillerSR User FAQ. Contact your librarian to find out how to register. If you are not currently working with a librarian, submit a request to have one join your team by e-mailing Ask a Librarian.

~Rose Turner