What Should a Literature Review Do?

Years: 1,2,3

This session is delivered as part of by the University of East Anglia (UEA) online training series.  A programme of online, live-taught sessions delivered at a set date and time each week.


Every thesis must include a review of relevant literature. Indeed, conducting a literature review is often the first thing a PGR student is asked to do. This session discusses the purpose of this literature review and the importance of summarising, analysing and synthesising the arguments of others as a means of providing a context for your own research. It also considers some alternative models for writing and structuring a literature review chapter. Understanding your research ‘field’, and being able to guide your reader around it, are very important first steps on the road to doctoral success. This session is designed to facilitate that process.

Access Instructions

Bookings for these online courses are via: https://bookwhen.com/ueaonlinetraining

The demand for these courses is high and you are advised to book your place as soon as the booking system goes live.

Information on the booking dates will be circulated by email.

Indicative Student Feedback for this Session

Thanks so very much for yesterday's training session…I found it extremely helpful in many different ways: the content was spot on and gave me useful insights. Perhaps even more importantly, at this early stage in my PhD, your reassuring guidance helped to calm my nerves for what I consider to be a daunting task ahead (City University).

Incredibly helpful, thank you, and this is a great way of running a training session. It's nice to clarify what we should aim to achieve with the literature review, rather than just reviewing all the literature! [The advice on] structure was also very clear. Thanks again (Royal Holloway).

Excellent! Sounds sad but this was the best two hours of my PhD life so far! So, so helpful - the most useful part for me were the various approaches to structure (Roehampton).

This was great. Wrote my literature review a year ago, but have never been satisfied with ii. This has helped to pinpoint some of the sticking points. Loved the pictorials/diagrams illustrating [writing] pathways - a genuine ‘aha’ moment! (Kent).

This session was really great. Simon's style of authentic, humorous, and down to earth presenting/discussing was easy to follow and comprehend. The visuals in the slides were immensely helpful for following the potential paths a literature review might take depending on each person's topic. Thanks (Sussex).


  • Simon Watts

    Dr Simon Watts is a Postgraduate Research Training Coordinator for the Faculty of Social Sciences in University of East Anglia.  He teaches the majority of the sessions on the UEA Online Training Series which are open to Ulster PhD Researchers as part of the overall Researcher Development Programme. The Online Training Series offers research and professional training skills training for PhD Researchers in a ‘live-taught’ online format.  Training session are delivered via a virtual classroom on Tuesday evenings between 7pm-9pm.

The Vitae Researcher Development Framework

This session maps on to Domain A of the Vitae Framework: Knowledge and intellectual abilities which includes the sub-domain areas of:

  • A1: Knowledge base
  • A2: Cognitive abilities
  • A3: Creativity
The Vitae Researcher Development Framework