Visual exploration of scientific literature with VOSviewer

Professional skills courses

Course information

ECTS: 1.5
Number of sessions: 2
Hours per session: 4
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • € 300,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information 


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School)

In the academic year 2023-2024 this course will take place online

Session 1
December 5 (Tuesday) 2023
Online (Teams)

Session 2
December 7 (Thursday) 2023
​​​​​​​Online (Teams)

Aims and working method

It is essential for PhD candidates and researchers generally to have an up-to-date understanding of the literature in their research field. However, keeping up with all relevant literature and obtaining a good overview of a research field can be challenging and highly time consuming. Bibliometric visualizations support this task. These visualizations provide intuitive overviews of the literature in a research field, enabling researchers to obtain a better understanding of the structure and development of a field and to get an impression of the most significant contributions made in the field.

In this course, PhD candidates will be introduced to the VOSviewer software for bibliometric visualization. Students will get hands-on experience in creating visualizations of their own research field. They will also be trained in interpreting these visualizations and in using them to deepen their understanding of their area of research.

Learning objectives

After the course, you will know how to:

  • Download data from bibliographic databases such as Web of Science and Scopus;
  • Create bibliometric visualizations with the VOSviewer software;
  • Use these visualizations for exploring the scientific literature in a research field.

Session descriptions

Session 1:

  • Introduction to bibliometric visualization and the VOSviewer software;
  • Bibliographic data sources;
  • Co-authorship and citation-based maps.

Session 2:

  • Term/keyword co-occurrence maps;
  • Overlay visualizations. 

Example of Vosviewer output


PhD information skills

The Erasmus University Library has developed several e-learning modules on, among other subjects, optimising literature search techniques and visualisation. 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 instructor

Nees Jan van Eck is a senior researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University. Nees Jan is doing research in the field of bibliometrics. He is the main developer of the VOSviewer software.