What is a Literature Review?
When a literature review is written as part of a research paper, it is intended to frame what research has been done that is related to topic; and to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of that research. For many research papers, a literature review is usually written following a thematic approach, which allows the writer to explore trends and themes in a given topic.
There are other ways of structuring your literature review, such as chronological (for example, if you are exploring the trends in your topic over time) or methodological (by the methods employed in the research studies).
A literature review should be a selective review of the literature that directly relates to your thesis, not a broad summary of material that loosely is related to your broader topic.
How to Get Started
When you read scholarly / peer -reviewed literature, pay close attention to where the references are noted before the methods section. This is the the literature review section (even though it is not usually labeled as such).
Consider how the author summarizes the literature they selected, and how it relates back to their thesis. It can also be very helpful to to read the abstracts of some the articles cited in the literature review so you can develop an understanding of how the researcher will select the most relevant points of other's research to discuss.
Be sure to read the literature review section as a whole piece to understand how the researcher uses to frame their own thesis in the body of current research.
For in-depth help, go to the Conducting the Literature Review guide.