From the Research Methods Knowledge Base (Trochim):
"Literature citations and review: The literature cited is from reputable and appropriate sources (e.g., professional journals, books and not Time, Newsweek, etc.) and you have a minimum of five references. The literature is condensed in an intelligent fashion with only the most relevant information included. Citations are in the correct format (see APA format sheets)."
Many students struggle with literature reviews, especially when writing theses or dissertations. This guide along with the corresponding lecture is meant to alleviate these difficulties while helping learn to produce quality literature reviews in an efficient manner.
So what is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly articles, books, or other sources that pertain to a specific topic, area of research, or theory. The literature review offers brief descriptions, summaries, and critical evaluations of each work, and does so in the form of a well-organized essay. The goal is to summarize, synthesize, and critique the arguments and ideas of others, and point to gaps in the current literature.
A well-written literature review will:
Note that literature reviews differ greatly depending upon the format and discipline, so you will want to defer to your specific requirements as outlined by your professor and/or on the syllabus. Generally, however, literature reviews will encompass the following parts: