Literature research refers to the scholarly, critical study of literature, generally for analysis purposes. It is often done as part of a degree program, such as a degree in English, but some people simply choose to study literature on their own as part of a hobby. Basic literature research may also take place in high school, but most students don't really begin diving into true literary analysis until college. For professors of literature, this type of research will generally continue throughout their careers, as they publish scholarly papers on their topics of choice. Many universities require this of their professors.
The methods for literature research are generally fairly similar across the board. An individual wanting to study a certain aspect of a piece of literature, such as a certain theme, piece of imagery, type of characterization, etc., will generally form a question about this idea. It is necessary that the question be debatable in order to produce a truly interesting, worthwhile paper. Then, the individual will begin examining the research that already exists in this topic from other scholarly researchers.
In most cases, the researcher will make sure to study and respond to all sides of a debatable issue when writing his or her own literature research. Of course, it is entirely possible that no one else has written about one specific idea for one specific piece of literature before; in this case, the researcher will need to find related examples for similar ideas or other similar pieces of literature. It is also common practice for literature researchers to compare a few different works to each other; this can be different works by the same author or by different authors.
The process of literary review, critique, and analysis can be lengthy and challenging. It is necessary in literature research for the researcher to add his or her own ideas in addition to the primary and secondary sources she collects for the research. If the research will eventually be published in a scholarly journal, it will be necessary for the piece to go through a lengthy peer review process as well. In this process, the researcher's colleagues will review the piece and offer critical feedback on it to ensure that the piece is the best it can be. Students completing this type of research that will not be published will not need to go through the peer review process, though some instructors will encourage peer reviews in the classroom to get students in practice of critiquing others' work.