Doing the literature reviewCourses for beginning PhD candidates

Course information

Number of sessions: 3
Hours per session: 3
Entry level: Introduction
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €440,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607

Edition I

November 30 (Thursday) 2017
Mandeville building (directions) room T3-32

December 7 (Thursday) 2017
Mandeville building (directions) room T3-11

Edition II

April 26 (Thursday) 2018
Mandeville building (directions) room T17-01

May 3 (Thursday) 2018
Mandeville building (directions) room T17-01

Aims and working method

This course provides elementary guidance for the full literature review process. Participants are trained in searching and selecting relevant literature, applying different reading strategies, assessing the selected literature, and presenting the findings. We will focus on the systematic way of reviewing literature.

This is an introductory course specifically designed for PhD candidates who are in the early stages of their PhD trajectory (first year) and are (almost) beginning to work on the literature review of their thesis. However, the course can also be useful for people who want to learn more about doing literature reviews more generally (i.e. not specifically for a PhD thesis).

Participants are not expected to write their full literature review as part of this course. However, participants will be offered an opportunity to hand in their literature review when they have finished it for feedback from the instructor. 

Learning objectives

After the course, participants will know how to:


  • Search and select relevant literature in a systematic way
  • Investigate the selected literature in a systematic way
  • Present the results efficiently and clearly 

Session descriptions

  • Session 1:
    The different steps of the (systematic) literature review

    • Why do a literature review?
    • Traditional vs systematic review
    • Searching and selecting literature, and the use of digital methods for exploring and mapping the literature
    • Different reading strategies
    • Monitoring your progress through the literature matrix
    • How to macro-analyze your material, and identifying and discussing gaps and flaws
    • Different strategies for presenting the literature, and the pros and cons of each strategy, based on real examples

  • Session 2:
    Reflection on your own literature review

    • You will be asked to prepare a plan indicating which literature you will review, a time scheme and a preliminary structure for your chapter or article. In session 2 we will discuss the outcomes of this exercise.
    • Group discussion about other possible troubles and questions 

About the instructors

Dr. Fadi Hirzalla is the Graduate School senior lecturer and methodology consultant. He specialises in quantitative and qualitative methods and methodology, next to his substantive interests in citizenship and new media, with a particular focus on intercultural relations and young people. Prior to joining the Graduate School, he worked at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University.