A literature review is a critical summary of what the scientific literature says about your specific topic or question. Often student research in APA fields falls into this category. Your professor might ask you to write this kind of paper to demonstrate your familiarity with work in the field pertinent to the research you hope to conduct.
While the APA Publication Manual does not require a specific order for a literature review, a good literature review typically contains the following components:
Some instructors may also want you to write an abstract for a literature review, so be sure to check with them when given an assignment. Also, the length of a literature review and the required number of sources will vary based on course and instructor preferences.
NOTE: A literature review and an annotated bibliography are not synonymous. While both types of writing involve examining sources, the literature review seeks to synthesize the information and draw connections between sources. If you are asked to write an annotated bibliography, you should consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for the APA Format for Annotated Bibliographies.