A literature review is a means of demonstrating an author's knowledge about a particular field of study, including vocabulary, theories, key variables and phenomena, and its methods and history. Conducting a literature review also informs the student of the influential researchers and research groups in the field.
Randolph, Justus J. "A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review." Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation 14.13 (2009): 1-13.
At the top of this page is a general definition for what a literature review can encompass. Here are some additional criteria for you to consider as you begin to consider research studies to use in the paper that you will write:
When you begin writing your literature review, it should be more than just a summary of what others have done. You need to interact with the research that you find.
What does this mean for you as a student researcher?
Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. London: Sage Publications, 1998, p.27.
Peer-reviewed journals and articles are a way of communicating ideas and information within a specific field of study or academic discipline.
A research article is a scholarly article that essentially reports the results of original, primary research and typically appears in peer-reviewed or refereed periodicals. For this reason, research articles are considered the pinnacle of information sources. Research articles are almost always written in the same format. Understanding the format of research articles should help you to more easily navigate databases and select appropriate sources for you to use for your research. Most research articles incorporate five standard elements. The format that research articles follow mirror the research process.
Other elements that you many find in research articles are an abstract or summary, information about the author(s), and a list of references. The references can be very helpful in directing your to other possible sources of information.
"The student's survival guide to research," M.L. McAdoo, p. 123-4.