Whereas a typical research paper would depend upon proper sources of information to support the writers' thesis or main argument, a literature review is concerned with discussing the sources themselves, their validity, their meaning and value in that given field. The intriguing part of writing a literature review in terms of style is that it is written as an expository essay. It requires an introduction, body, and conclusion, and is therefore different from an annotated bibliography, which would be concerned only with commenting on an alphabetized list of sources. Basically, this means that your literature review shouldn't be a bunch of summaries tied together but rather a kind of argument that develops out of a discussion of your sources.
A typical structure would contain an intro, body, and conclusion, and the body would focus on comments pertaining to:
- Historical background and previous research findings;
- recent developments in the field;
- areas up for debate/areas in need of closer examination:;
- areas of agreement;
- leading authorities' views;
- varying approaches on the subject;
- qualitative analyzes of the subject.
A last helpful note: A literature review is NOT primarily about you or your relationship to the literature. Therefore, a literature review should NOT be organized as a narrative of your own research process.