Doing the (systematic) literature review

Professional skills courses

Course information

Number of sessions: 2
Hours per session: 3
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €400,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607

Session 1
April 23 (Thursday) 2020
Sanders building (directions), room 1-11

Session 2
April 30 (Thursday) 2020
Sanders building (directions), room 1-11

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. 

Please note that there is a slight overlap between this course and one of our workshops. In session 1 of this course we will briefly discuss how to search for literature in the major scientific databases, which will be discussed more extensively in the workshop Searching, finding and managing your literature.

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, and
  • to present the results efficiently and clearly.

Session descriptions

  • Session 1:
    Selecting and reading a literature field
    • Why doing 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
  • Session 2:
    Macro-analysis and presentation of the findings
    • Macro-analyzing 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
    • Each participant will be asked to develop a plan for the literature selection, a reading schedule, and a structure for their review. In session 2 we will discuss the outcomes.


PhD information skills

The Erasmus University Library has developed several e-learning modules on, among other subjects, doing a literature review. These modules consist of short videos, activating exercises and explanatory texts. The e-modules are complementary to our existing courses on information skills:

More information on the e-modules PhD information skills

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.