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DistillerSR: Project Steps

Setting up your Project

Getting started

Importing References

There are several ways to gather and import references into DistillerSR.

We recommend you execute your searches in the individual databases and export the results into a citation management program. For example, EndNote or RefWorks. DO NOT deduplicate your references within the citation management program. Instead, wait to use DistillerSR's deduping feature. This will allow you to take advantage of DistillerSR's PRISMA diagram feature.

After gathering all your references, export them from the citation management program as a RIS text file.

Begin the Import process:

  • Select References -> Find and Import References from the top pull-down menu. 
  • Select Source -> From File. A number of Standard & Daisy options appear on the screen.
  • If this is the first time you have imported references into your project we recommend you change only one option on the screen. Under Assign RefID, we recommend you select the radio button labeled Sequential RefID starting at. DistillerSR should recommend that you start with number 1.  All other options can be ignored.

    If you must import additional references later in the process, we recommend you contact the library for detailed instructions.

  • Use the Drag & Drop, or Browse feature to import your RIS text file.  Then select Import References.
  • Take special note of any processing messages that appear.  This will give you a heads-up if there were issues/problems with the records in your RIS file and if any fields failed to upload correctly.

For more help - click the User Guide icon  in the top menu bar.  In the User Guide left-hand menu, under the "Reference Management" header, select "Importing References".

Remove Duplicates/Duplicate Detection

If you've searched multiple databases, there will be citations in your collection that are duplicates.  You will need to remove these duplicates.

Select References -> Duplicate Detection from the top pull-down menu. The Duplicate Detection screen will appear.

We suggest you initially use the default settings that display.  If you are concerned that not all duplicates were identified you can always change settings and check for duplicates again.

Click Run Dupe Check.

Quarantine Individual Records

  • DistillerSR will display potential duplicates side-by-side allowing you to designate that a duplicate record should be "Quarantined".  You may also specify that a record is not a duplicate.  As you make your selections, you must move back to the top of the list of references and select Quarantine Selected Duplicates BEFORE moving to the next page of duplicates.

Smart Quarantine

  • Note that DistillerSR displays a percentage that reflects the confidence the system has that two records are duplicates. If you wish, you may use the Smart Quarantine feature to automatically quarantine all records that meet the match confidence threshold. The default threshold is 90%. Please scan the duplicate records to confirm they are duplicates before invoking the smart quarantine feature.

For more help - click the User Guide icon  in the top menu bar.  In the User Guide left-hand menu, under the "Reference Management" header, select "Detecting and Removing Duplicate References".

Creating Your First Forms

Distiller uses Forms to screen and extract data from your references. You can create your own form, use a form already in Distiller or edit a form already available.

Your first form should be used for screening. We suggest the Rapid/Title Screening form and editing it if needed.

To create a new form, choose Workflow -> Edit Forms from the Distiller Toolbar.

For more help - click the User Guide icon  in the top menu bar.  In the User Guide left-hand menu, under the "Forms" header, select "Creating Forms".

Configuring Your Workflow - (Setting up Your Levels)

In DistillerSR, “levels” are the logical stages that references pass through during the course of your review. Each level or stage of your project will have to have at least 1 form. You need to tell DistillerSR which form(s) belong in each level, and then apply the setting to each Form or Level. 

DistillerSR’s Level Editor has an easy-to-use, drag and drop interface. In the Level Editor, you will set a number of parameters that determine whether references are included or excluded at that level. (i.e. Agreement, number of users needed to include, which users are assigned to review, etc..) 

Setting the level and form preferences can be confusing, we recommend you test both your settings and form questions by reviewing a  small batch of citations. Hopefully, this will reveal issues with settings and also determine if your form questions are clear, unambiguous and capture the data you need. This set can then be deleted prior to beginning the project. 

To add a form to a Level, choose Workflow > Manage Levels from the Distiller Toolbar
and drag a form from the list of available forms on the left-hand side of the screen to the desired level.

To edit a Level’s settings click on the box that surrounds the form icons at each level. This will bring up the editable parameters on the right of the screen.

For more help - click the User Guide icon  in the top menu bar.  In the User Guide left-hand menu, under the "Project Workflow" header, select "Configuring Level Settings".


User Permissions

Once you have uploaded references, created a form, and configured your workflow, you can begin screening. However, there are a couple of other things you need to do before your reviewers can begin working with references.

Configuring your user permissions so that each reviewer has the right permissions for their role in the project is key. 

To assign User Permissions, choose Users>DistillerSR Permission Matrix from the Distiller Toolbar.

Our recommendation is to assign users only permissions that they will need, only the PI or senior researchers should have permissions beyond Review References.

For more help - click the User Guide icon  in the top menu bar.  In the User Guide left-hand menu, under the "Users and Account Management" header, select "Managing Distiller Permissions".

Generating a Report

DistillerSR supports the easy generation of reports through two main approaches: Standard Project Reporting, and enhanced reporting using Datarama. The former provides quick reports against your references, project data and meta-data with little or no configuration, the latter provides detailed reporting and exporting opportunities that are highly configurable.

All Reports can be accessed from the Reports toolbar. 
To generate a Prisma diagram choose Reports -> Exclusions -> Exclusion Numbers from the Distiller Toolbar.  After the report is run, there will be a button at the bottom of the page to create a Prisma diagram. 

For more help - click the User Guide icon  in the top menu bar.  In the User Guide left-hand menu select "Reporting".

Uploading Full-text Articles

We recommend you not upload full-text articles until after you've undergone Title/Abstract screening.  This will reduce the number of documents you will need to upload.

Find and upload free full-text

Select References -> Full Text Document -> Manage Attachments

  • Specify the following: Minimum Level - > normally select "Full Text" Level
  • Select "Apply Filters"
  • Next review the list and then select "Find Free Full Text"

Bulk Upload

  • Select References -> Full Text Documents -> Bulk Upload
  • You will need to collect the appropriate PDF's on your computer.  In order to 'bulk upload', the saved pdf file names will need to include the corresponding RefID number of the DistillerSR article record.
  • If the RefID is 37:
    myfile.pdf -> 37myfile.pdf
    16 candles.pdf -> 37 16candles
  • Browse to the PDF's and select the files you wish to upload.  Use the "Drop files to upload (or click)" feature to upload.

For more help - click the User Guide icon  in the top menu bar.  In the User Guide left-hand menu, under the "Reference Management" header, select "Managing Attachments".

More Help


  • Distiller Chat-available when logged into at the upper right corner  
  • Attend weekly Support Office Hours-click the Notification button  
  • Issues using DistillerSR? Submit a question to the Biotech Commons.
  • DistillerSR Help Forum
  • Submit a Ticket  to DistillerSR via email