First, start by understanding your paper; make sure you know what requirements your instructor is assigning. This is a key step in being able to outline your plan of attack.
Second, focus on your topic. Narrowing your topic before you begin, and again several times as you proceed, will help you write a thorough paper, one that treats its subject accurately. Once you get into the library, you will find dozens of temptations to expand and extend your project. The clearer you are at the beginning about your project, the better off you'll be.
Research writing requires two special kinds of focusing. The first is identifying the descriptors or key words that will guide your search through the library resources. You will want to spend some time brain-storming possible key words, or subject headings, under which you might find articles and books about your topic. The more precise your de-scriptors, the more likely you will be able to find useful articles. Finding key words or descriptors can be a creative process and it is a vital process to successful research. The second essential focusing activity is to formulate a question or cluster of related questions that will guide your search for information and ideas. Putting your topic into question form can help you locate sources and evaluate them quickly for suit-ability for your paper.
Third, make a generalized position on your topic, which support your views. Although you should expect your...