Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to analyse how using bibliometrics and information visualization can provide a “picture at glance” from which decision-makers can structure processes, thus organizing outputs/outcomes from inception. Design/methodology/approach: This study carried out a bibliometric-oriented review on studies on higher education students' retention; 1,962 records were downloaded from Scopus and grouped into three five-year intervals: 2002–2006 (n = 236), 2007–2011 (n = 584) and 2012–2016 (n = 1,142). Centrality measures and text-mining techniques were used to analyse data. Findings: Clusters of academic networks were identified by using co-citation analysis. Also, terms with high semantic value were ranked and grouped by using automatic term extraction and co-word analysis. Practical implications: The bibliometric approach used in this study identifies clusters of authors specialized in student retention, as well as detects the primary terms within this research field. Originality/value: This paper provides evidence that a bibliometric approach in conjunction with data visualization can be a valuable complement to in-depth literature reviews for the decision-making process.