Doctoral education scholars associate doctoral learning with certain threshold concepts, many of which are embedded in the literature review. In considering this, we draw from a literary metaphor of 'joining the conversation' and report on a doctoral writing programme that blended elements of workshops, 'shut-up-and-write' sessions and thesis writing circles in the Faculty of Social Sciences at an Australian university. Findings illustrate conceptual thresholds engendered in the literature review. Study participants reported growing awareness of: the need for a critical voice; the difference between descriptive and critical writing; and, different ways to conduct and structure the literature review. Further, these are capacities and skills that develop iteratively over the candidature. To join the research conversation, gaining an understanding of these aspects of the conceptual threshold is important and, as indicated here, writing programmes that explicitly support this learning are vital to the process of scholarly development.