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Literature Review


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the specializations of the MSc Biology is required.

This course (assignment) can be done only after consultation/consent of the Study Adviser.


As an academic, literature reviews help you gain a critical overview of current knowledge on a specific topic. Writing a literature review involves conducting systematic literature searches, allowing you to thoroughly understand a field and learn to collect, connect, and critique the approaches and findings of other researchers

The MSc Biology Literature Review is an individual and supervised literature study on a limited part of a biological field. This involves formulating a biological question and addressing it by examining a selection of original scientific articles. The process includes searching for, reviewing, and critically discussing the chosen literature to answer a research question or hypothesis within a particular biological subject area.

The resulting literature review paper provides a comprehensive overview of the specific field pertaining to the research question or hypothesis as well as the writer’s own evaluation, interpretation, and conclusions in a well-argued and substantiated manner.

Although a literature study may not use new or original data, it still provides an academic contribution through the interpretations it makes and the conclusions it draws. The results are elaborated in a literature review paper, which is a well-running summary and critique of the literature on your topic of investigation that has been read and relevant to the research question.

This course also aims to:

  • Advance the student’s skills to critically read and analyse scientific literature and develop their own perspectives on current debates and required future research in the subject area.

  • Improve the student’s academic English writing skills by writing a well-structured, coherent literature review paper.

The size of a literature review of 6 EC is approximately 15-20 pages (± 6,000-8,000 words excluding references and figures). All guidelines can be found on Brightspace.

Course Objectives

After completion of the course, students are able to:  
1. Independently obtain in-depth knowledge and understanding about a recent question, concepts and approaches in a specific part of a biological field.
2. Critically evaluate scientific publications and studies and summarize and relate various scientific studies and/or views in relation to the research question.
3. Identify and cite key contributors and major debates in the field pertaining to the research question, concepts and approaches in a specific part of a biological field.
4. Identify gaps and areas for future research pertaining to the research question, concepts and approaches in a specific part of a biological field.
4. Describe abstract, problem definition, hypothesis, analysis, interpretation and discussion in a clear manner, written in the form of a review paper of a pre-selected scientific journal


After consultation with the study advisor, the student is permitted to make an appointment with an examiner to discuss the subject and time frame. A list of possible supervisors for the Literature Review is available in the Brightspace course Opleiding Biologie.
The scope and frequency of the supervision must be indicated on the literature review agreement. Theoretical and practical instructions are provided by the supervisor. In addition, students are highly encouraged to use the 'Writing a Literature Review' module on the Science Skills Platform during the writing phase of the course.

  • The responsible supervisor is available for questions about the selected subject.

  • For questions about enrollment, approval, etc, contact the Study Advisor.

Mode of Instruction

Study of literature, writing, and presenting.

Assessment Method

Evaluation of the written literature review by the supervisor according to the criteria and rubrics on the assessment form.

Reading list

Depending on the complexity and quantity of articles, the guideline for the literature
review is approximately 80-150 pages of primary literature.


Prior approval of the literature review agreement by the study advisor via ProjectMAP is necessary.
Registration for the course via MyStudyMap is not needed.


Education Office Biology


Use course code 4313LRCML if you do the Literature Review at the CML.