This post reflects on a literature review seminar led by Christian Karner (CK) While there is much time and space available to analyse the literature within a PhD thesis, the literature review still needs to have an objective at its heart. There must be an argument running through it; the expanded space available does not give licence to a ‘kitchen sink’ approach. While aiming to read extensively, the review is not a platform for showing that off. Everything that is included within the scope of the review should contribute to its overall argument. In my project, this argument will be focused on justifying my theoretical approach. This raises the question of what ‘should’ be included in the review. Potential pressure to include the ‘big name’ writers in certain areas could conflict with the approach outlined above. (I included a short section on Giddens in a structure/agency paper last year, not because I felt it added anything to the argument but because he is the writer most associated with that debate in recent years.) CK highlighted the common positioning of the literature review straight after the introduction as somewhat stereotypical. Going into detailed analysis of the existing literature may only be appropriate in conjunction with data analysis. Concentrating on the review in isolation at the start of the project runs the risk of leaving it disconnected from the rest of the project. As each part of the review must contribute to that section’s objective, so the review as a whole must feed into the overall argument of the thesis in its entirety. So, there needs to be a clear objective to the literature review: what is the scope of the argument being made and how does that feed into the overall thesis. I’ll consider the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how I should structure that argument in a future post.