The Best of Both Worlds: Use EndNote and DistillerSR Together to Produce Better Systematic Reviews

by | Aug 26, 2021

The Best of Both Worlds: Use EndNote and DistillerSR Together to Produce Better Systematic Reviews

A presentation at the Medical Librarian Association’s 2021 virtual conference brought together Jimmy McColery, Digital Education Specialist at Clarivate, and Jennifer Tetzlaff, DistillerSR’s Epidemiologist-in-Residence, to discuss how their respective solutions help improve systematic literature reviews, and complement one another.

Q. Systematic reviews are complex by nature. Streamlining manual processes with the help of literature review software such as DistillerSR and EndNote can lead reviewers to the finish line faster with better and more accurate results. How would you describe these platforms in a nutshell?

Jennifer Tetzlaff: Essentially, DistillerSR is a comprehensive tool that’s built to automate every stage of the review. It’s designed to increase the transparency, reliability, reproducibility, and efficiency of your reviews. Whether you’re conducting your own systematic reviews, helping to run a systematic review service, or perhaps supporting researchers at your institution, you’re going to find the tools and the flexibility that you need.

Jimmy McColery: EndNote 20 is a robust citation manager with features to help you in all research and writing stages. You can automatically capture references from information providers such as the Web of Science, PubMed, and ScienceDirect. Furthermore, EndNote can manage your scholarly literature for easy citing and referencing and set up a library sharing team in EndNote 20 to collaborate with up to 200 members. EndNote also allows reviewers to create template libraries, speeding up subsequent projects with the same terms while ensuring a reproducible approach for all your reviews.

Q. Duplicate references can really slow down the literature review process. How does EndNote 20 address the issue, and is that complementary to what DistillerSR can do?

Jimmy McColery: A well-thought-out approach to managing duplicate references can result in significant time savings by reducing the number of items needing review. By default, EndNote compares the Author field, Year field, Title field, and reference type when determining duplicates, and 17 comparison fields are configurable in EndNote 20. Different systematic review tools like DistillerSR detect duplicates through other criteria, and your project can maximize the time-saving potential by scanning your reference materials for duplicated items with more than one software.

Jennifer Tetzlaff: I agree with Jimmy. I would advise you to check for duplicates in both EndNote 20 and DistillerSR to take advantage of their complementary functionality. Furthermore, you can use the powerful deduplication tool in DistillerSR to identify and link companion reports, such as a study protocol and final report, so that when teams are conducting their screening or their data extraction they have access to all the information that they need.

Q. What efficiencies does DistillerSR introduce into the screening process?

Jennifer Tetzlaff: Screening in DistillerSR is designed to be flexible to your needs. Teams can benefit from features such as keyword highlighting, dynamic questions, automatic conflict detection, as well as a user-friendly interface and transparent tracking of project and team progress. You also have access to AI-powered screening and error detection in DistillerSR. Last year, we introduced a feature called Continuous AI Re-prioritization, and this active learning technology helps you find relevant evidence sooner. Internal and external validation studies to date have consistently shown that a reviewer can expect to find relevant records, on average, 40–60 percent sooner than using traditional screening methods.

Q. I understand that both tools offer the ability to automatically find full-text documents such as publication PDFs. How does this process happen?

Jimmy McColery: The Find Full Text feature in EndNote 20 allows the software to search online for open access and subscription-based PDF articles, and you can automatically download and attach references stored within the EndNote library. You can add institutional information to your EndNote 20 preferences to expand the number of searchable resources and improve your overall success rate. Lastly, you can perform your Find Full Text searches on a reference-by-reference basis or search in batches of up to 250 articles.

Jennifer Tetzlaff: You can complement EndNote’s ‘find full text’ feature with full-text retrieval options in DistillerSR. Various options to access free and subscription-based copyright-compliant materials are available through DistillerSR and EndNote 20.

Q. Keeping up with new research as it becomes available is a challenge. How do DistillerSR and EndNote help reviewers upload new data published during the course of a review?

Jennifer Tetzlaff: With Litconnect, you can set up automatic search updates from supported providers, such as PubMed, and you can bring the information directly into your DistillerSR projects. In addition, you can set up email alerts so you, or specific reviewers you’ve identified, will be automatically notified if new references are added to relevant projects. These two tools can help alleviate many of the manual processes that would otherwise be required to maintain reviews in this way.

Jimmy McColery: In EndNote 20, you can easily assign a library sharing team member to periodically upload newly published material to read-only versions of the literature review. The Find Reference Updates search available in EndNote 20 downloads all current reference metadata for literature indexed by PubMed or by Web of Science, helping update preprint materials to ensure correct formatting. EndNote also helps keep your reference metadata accurate and up-to-date with Instant Formatting, a Cite While You Write add-in feature for Microsoft Word.

Q. What other efficiencies are worth highlighting for reviewers?

Jennifer Tetzlaff: By leveraging artificial intelligence in your screening process, not only can you find relevant evidence much sooner, you can also create efficiencies across the review process. For example, your teams can start ordering full-text documents faster, and begin data extraction sooner. In fact, some teams have even chosen to implement stopping rules for screening, depending on their review needs. It also helps greatly when you’re conducting review updates, literature surveillance or living reviews or maintaining evidence databases. Beyond screening and data extraction, DistillerSR includes many efficiencies for project and team management and for reporting, such as automated reports (e.g. exclusion reports and review flow-diagrams) at the click of a button.

Jimmy McColery: We know that literature reviewers are most likely working on multiple projects simultaneously or starting a new project after completing the current one. EndNote enables users to set up template libraries with pre-defined groups and term lists to jumpstart new projects with less legwork. Not only does this approach save valuable time, but it also provides a consistently reproducible approach to literature reviews and minimizes the chance for errors throughout the process. And a bonus: reimporting data from DistillerSR back to EndNote also becomes easier while maintaining original record numbers.

Q. Collaboration is essential to systematic reviews and efficient project management can be a real chore. How do your solutions address that?

Jennifer Tetzlaff: DistillerSR facilitates real-time project and program management. Many organizations, research groups and institutional libraries successfully manage or support hundreds of reviews using DistillerSR. They have access to tools such as DistillerSR’s project dashboard, which is a real-time, at-a-glance view of how each review is progressing at each stage of its lifecycle. Granular permissions can also be set so team members only see what they need to for their particular role on a project. These capabilities, and many others, are here to support teams that conduct literature reviews and surveillance.

Jimmy McColery: Literature reviews are complex projects and will most likely involve a distributed team. EndNote provides researchers with several options to share reference materials. These include sharing custom groups via EndNote online, complete library sharing in EndNote 20, or easily save a read-only EndNote library to a network drive for local intranet sharing. EndNote also makes document and report collaboration more manageable by allowing multiple authors to cite from a shared library using Cite While You Write, the EndNote add-in for Microsoft Word.

Q. It seems like there is a lot of synchronicity between EndNote and DistillerSR. What is the common thread that unites them?

Jennifer Tetzlaff: When we started talking about this joint presentation, one of the things I was really excited to learn is that our missions for DistillerSR and EndNote are essentially identical: Our goals are to allow you to save time, to stay organized, and to collaborate efficiently.

Jimmy McColery: Incorporating more than one software solution into your review workflow can significantly maximize your productivity and save valuable time. The interoperability between DistillerSR and EndNote empowers you to magnify these benefits even more so by strengthening many steps of your review process.

DistillerSR automates every stage of the systematic reviews process for faster and more accurate evidence-based research. More than 300 of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and medical device companies, contract research organizations, governments, NGOs, and academic institutions trust DistillerSR to achieve transparent, audit-ready, and compliant literature reviews. As a result, healthcare researchers can produce more informed and time-sensitive health policies, clinical practice guidelines, and regulatory submissions.

Clarivate™ is a global leader in providing solutions to accelerate the lifecycle of innovation. Our bold mission is to help customers solve some of the world’s most complex problems by providing actionable information and insights that reduce the time from new ideas to life-changing inventions in the areas of science and intellectual property. We help customers discover, protect and commercialize their inventions using our trusted subscription and technology-based solutions coupled with deep domain expertise. For more information, please visit

  • Vivian MacAdden

    Vivian MacAdden is DistillerSR's Senior Manager, Industry Marketing - Medical Devices. Throughout her career, she has accumulated 20 years of strategic marketing experience in various industries in Canada and international markets such as Brazil, China, Singapore, Jordan and Japan. A problem solver at heart and forever an optimist (and karaoke lover), she is passionate about telling great stories that make a positive impact on the world.

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