Abstract This paper is part of a systematic literature review and presents methodological issues within studies, investigating therapeutic applications of music in cancer patients. This review focuses on published international research from the USA, Canada, Australia and European countries using four electronic databases: PSYCHINFO, WEB OF SCIENCE, MEDLINE and SCIENCEDIRECT. Thirty-two papers were identified and each paper was coded in terms of sample type, basic research question, research design and methodological details, results and implications for future research. This paper addresses questions related to study design and methodology. It explores and discusses the relative advantages and disadvantages of various approaches.