A literature review is the summary or synthesis of multiple sources of information that have been collected to provide a foundation of knowledge about a particular subject area. A literature review deals with other authors' ideas and arguments without new contributions from the author of the literature review.
Literature reviews serve as a tool that a reader can use to navigate through a topic that he isn't familiar with. They can give an overview or bring readers up to date with the current literature or perceptions in a subject field. They also are used as a section in college-level research papers to establish a writer's credibility and knowledge of a subject, and a writer can use the review as a launching point and support structure for his argument or contribution to the subject.
There are multiple ways to structure a literature review, but most of them share the same key components. Literature reviews are composed of three elements: an introduction background, a body that discusses the sources, and a conclusion or recommendations section. When beginning a review, find a focus that ties all of your sources together, and develop a thesis statement that argues for a culminating perspective derived from the collection of sources. Use the focus and thesis statement to determine the best way to organize the body of the review.