Ceria (CeO2) and ceria-based composite materials, especially Ce1−xZrxO2 solid solutions, possess a wide range of applications in many important catalytic processes, such as three-way catalysts, owing to their excellent oxygen storage capacity (OSC) through the oxygen vacancy formation and refilling. Much of this activity has focused on the understanding of the electronic and structural properties of defective CeO2 with and without doping, and comprehending the determining factor for oxygen vacancy formation and the rule to tune the formation energy by doping has constituted a central issue in material chemistry related to ceria. However, the calculation on electronic structures and the corresponding relaxation patterns in defective CeO2−x oxides remains at present a challenge in the DFT framework. A pragmatic approach based on density functional theory with the inclusion of on-site Coulomb correction, i.e. the so-called DFT + U technique, has been extensively applied in the majority of recent theoretical investigations. Firstly, we review briefly the latest electronic structure calculations of defective CeO2(111), focusing on the phenomenon of multiple configurations of the localized 4f electrons, as well as the discussions of its formation mechanism and the catalytic role in activating the O2 molecule. Secondly, aiming at shedding light on the doping effect on tuning the oxygen vacancy formation in ceria-based solid solutions, we summarize the recent theoretical results of Ce1−xZrxO2 solid solutions in terms of the effect of dopant concentrations and crystal phases. A general model on O vacancy formation is also discussed; it consists of electrostatic and structural relaxation terms, and the vital role of the later is emphasized. Particularly, we discuss the crucial role of the localized structural relaxation patterns in determining the superb oxygen storage capacity in kappa-phase Ce1−xZr1−xO2. Thirdly, we briefly discuss some interesting findings for the oxygen vacancy formation in pure ceria nanoparticles (NPs) uncovered by DFT calculations and compare those with the bulk or extended surfaces of ceria as well as different particle sizes, emphasizing the role of the electrostatic field in determining the O vacancy formation.