A Historiographic Essay (also known as a Historiographic Review or, outside of the history discipline, a Literature Review) is a systematic and comprehensive analysis of books, scholarly articles, and other sources relevant to a specific topic that provides a base of knowledge. Literature reviews are designed to identify and critique the existing literature on a topic, justifying your research by exposing gaps in current research.
This investigation should provide a description, summary, and critical evaluation of works related to the research problem or question, and should also add to the overall knowledge of the topic as well as demonstrating how your research will fit within a larger field of study. A literature review should offer critical analysis of the current research on a topic and that analysis should direct your research objective. This should not be confused with a book review or an annotated bibliography; both are research tools but very different in purpose and scope. A Literature Review can be a stand alone element or part of a larger end product, so be sure you know your assignment. Finally, don't forget to document your process, and keep track of your citations!
The process of writing a literature review is not necessarily a linear process, you will often have to loop back and refine your topic, try new searches and altar your plans. The info graphic above illustrates this process. It also reminds you to continually keep track of your research by citing sources and creating a bibliography.