English Language Education

Writing your PhD: Reviewing the Literature

This course is for PhD students in their second year. Students work on various aspects of what is involved in reviewing the literature, and receive detailed feedback from their tutor on extracts of their writing.

Course content

  • Criteria for effective literature reviews
  • The purpose of reviewing the literature
  • Paraphrasing , summarising and synthesising sources
  • The structure of a literature review
  • Evaluating sources and foregrounding your voice

Teaching Methods

There are four classes of 1 hour and 50 minutes, held every two weeks. In each class you work through a series of tasks which involve: discussing aspects of reviewing literature; analysing sample extracts from University of Edinburgh doctoral theses; expanding your repertoire of useful academic English expressions; drafting short pieces of writing. You will then write a short assignment outside of class hours (approximately 1-2 hours a week). You send the assignment to your tutor, who responds with feedback on your writing. Students receive copies of the course materials, writing your PhD: Reviewing the Literature.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have a better understanding of:

  • ways of structuring a literature review
  • appropriate language for reviewing literature
  • the skills involved in summarising and paraphrasing
  • the skills involved in synthesising sources
  • ways of expressing critical evaluation
  • ways of expressing authorial voice

Timing and Location

Mondays from 19 February 14:10 - 16:00 (5 weeks)

Tuesdays from 20 February 14:10 - 16:00 (5 weeks)

Paterson’s Land, Holyrood Road


Any Edinburgh University international PhD student in their second year, or who is engaged in reviewing literature. For students in their first year, Writing a PhD First Year Report may be more appropriate.


Registration is now open for Semester 2 ELSIS Courses. The deadline for applications for this course is Friday 9 February 2018:

Apply now

Independent Study Materials