What it is:
"A literature review is the comprehensive study and interpretation of the literature that addresses a specific topic."(Aveyard 2010)
"In writing the literature review, the purpose is to convey to the reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (eg. your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis)." (Dena Taylor, Health Sciences Writing Centre, University of Toronto)
Still not sure? This tutorial designed by Indiana University is an excellent place to start.
What it's not:
A literature review is not equal to a four star review that you copied from Amazon.
A literature review is not just a list of what other research is available.
A literature review does not discredit a 50 page source just because you struggled to stay awake while reading it.
Aveyard, Helen. (2010). Doing a Literature Review in Health and Social Care : A Practical Guide (2nd Edition). Berkshire, GBR: Open University Press.
Elizabeth Ponder, a librarian at East Texas Baptist University, has put together an excellent page on how to write a literature review that you might find useful:
You may find some of the following books helpful in learning about and seeing examples of literature reviews: