Skip to main content

Library Guide Business Administration & Economics: Literature review

Sources and tools for finding economic and financial literature and data

Literature review support

Students and staff of the Radboud University can contact the NSM team for help in developing expert search strategies.

We can partner with you on:

  • relevant search terms
  • databases and information sources
  • structured searches
  • selecting, saving and citing literature
  • creating alerts on newly published literature

Literature Search Basic Course

Literature Support Website

          Taken from Cochrane website: Animated Storyboard: What Are Systematic Reviews? - extraction machine                   

You can follow seven steps to make sure that you have performed a thorough literature review:

Step 1 - Literature review: aim and type

Why do you want to do a review?

  • to develop a research question
  • to present a brief introduction of your subject
  • to present an extensive detailed account of a body of literature

Step 2 - Search question

Narrow your subject and create sub-questions. Keep in mind the aspects that are relevant for your discipline.

Step 3 - Publication types & sources

Consider what type of literature (journal articles, books, case studies etc.) you are looking for as the type of literature determines the database you should use. You will find databases in this library guide in the menu Find Literature ordered by name and by publication type. Our Databases A-Z lists all available search sources.

Tips to identify whether a source is relevant:

  • Who provides the database?
  • Which topics are covered by the database? 
  • Which journals or books are searchable via the database? 

  Step 4 - Search terms & techniques

When performing an extensive literature search, don’t only look to the key terms of your research question or topic.

Also bear in mind the following terms:

  • synonym
  • antonym
  • jargon
  • abbreviation
  • language variant

To find alternative search terms:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
  • Search for your topic on a search engine, scanning the results for alternative words and phrases.

Every database works differently. The NSM team can help you with setting up searches using the specialized syntax of individual databases.

Step 5 - Search strategies


If you have found one journal article, you can consult the article's references to find out what sources were used. This will help you to find earlier literature.

Snowballing Procedure (source: C. Wohlin 2014)

Cited reference search

Cited reference search is snowballing forward. Look at sources where the article is cited. This will give you more up-to-date literature on your topic. It is easy to search for references in Web of Science or Google Scholar.

Searching relevant journals

If you find many relevant articles in certain journals, it may be useful to search these journals to find other relevant articles. Find out more about journal search.

Author searching

If a lot of your key articles are written by the same author, you could carry out an author search.  You can search by author in almost all databases or search engines. Make sure you search for all name variants.

Block search

You can organize your search terms into thematic groups (blocks), covering the various aspects within your topic. It will help to create an overview of potential search terms. 

  • Formulate a literature search question
  • Identify the key elements
  • Define your blocks (key elements)
  • Collect search terms for each block
  • Set up a search string

The search terms within a block are combined with OR, the blocks are combined with an AND operator.

Step 6 - Recording search process

Record your search activities including search strategy, search terms, search options, search filters and search operators.

Step 7 - Selection

Decide which articles are relevant for your review. Think about including and excluding criteria, e.g.

  • time period
  • language range
  • study population
  • nature of the intervention 
  • methodological quality

The PRISMA flow diagram might help you with this selection process.

To select references:

  • First - screen title and abstract
  • Second  - full text review

Final step - Citing literature

At the NSM you should credit sources in American Psychological Association (APA) style.

Reference management programs help you with managing references and citing literature in your documents. They offer ways to link and search full text and format your citations in many different citation styles.

Literature review video