I am preparing for my upcoming phd viva and came across a list of questions that might be asked during the viva. One of them asked "where did you draw the line on what to include in your lit review". I was a bit confused by this question and I was wondering if you could provide some guidance on how to structure the answer. Thank you!

  • 2
    Probably your answer would depend on where you drew the line on your literature review. However it doesn't seem that useful to treat a viva this way: reading from vague lists of possible questions like you're studying for a course exam. You did the work, someone's asking about the work, you should already be the expert in what you did. Know where your weaknesses are and be ready to address those constructively.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


One simple answer is (leave away those aspects that don't apply to your situation):

First, I systematically thought about the different directions in which related work may exist. To make sure I did not miss any relevant directions, I consulted with my advisor/other researchers and checked the related work of the related work I initially looked at. For each identified direction, I considered a handful of prominent papers, until a point was reached where new papers did not add substantially new ideas, but just variations of the ones I already had covered.

  • My Ph.D. was a long time ago, so this may just be a failure of memory, but I don't remember being anywhere near that systematic about it. Commented May 10, 2021 at 17:07

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