Literature review

As part of your research, you can conduct a literature review. This can be part of your scholarly publication or a stand-alone publication.

There are different types of literature reviews. A systematic review is a literature review that uses a structured method to answer a specific research question. In addition to this type of review, there are scoping reviews and narrative reviews, for example. These are less extensive and time-consuming than a systematic review.


When preparing for a literature review, think carefully about which type of review is most appropriate for your purpose and research question. The steps below can help you with any type of review, but are extra important if you choose a systematic review.

  1. Plan of action
    Prepare by making a plan of action. Proceed in a structured manner so that there are no surprises later.
  2. Databases
    Select the databases you will be using for your literature search in advance.
  3. Search strategy
    The search strategy is an important part of your method. It consists of several components that stem from your research question. For example, a good search strategy has the right balance between sensitivity and specificity. Pay sufficient attention to setting up the search strategy, evaluate it and adjust it if necessary before you conduct the final search. 
  4. Managing literature
    Use a reference manager to manage your literature. EndNote and Zotero are examples of reference managers available to the Radboud University.

Your own research field

For more detailed information on conducting a literature review, see if it is available for your field. You can also always contact us for advice.


Need help choosing the type of review and how to prepare next? Contact your faculty's Library Information Point. You can also go there for suggestions on tools that can help you set up a search strategy.