Choose a topic
Sometimes a professor will assign specific topics for you to research. Or perhaps you will be given a list to choose from or the freedom to choose a topic all on your own. If you need ideas for topics try skimming through your course textbook or come to the library and look through our current magazine/journal display. If you can choose, find something you have an actual interest in. It is always easier to research and write about a topic when you are curious or passionate about it.
What do you need to know?
Review the assignment sheet your professor has give you. Look for clue keywords such as define, summarize, discuss, analyze, compare and contrast or anything else that will help identify a particular research task. Start think about the kinds of sources that might help you accomplish the task specified.
How much do you know about your topic?
Probably the most important skill to learn when doing good research is being able to identify important concepts and keywords, which can then be used when searching in a database. In fact, it would be highly advisable to take a few minutes before beginning your actually research to make a list of these concepts and keywords on a notepad. However, if you don't know very much about you topic then identifying those concepts can be difficult. If you find yourself in this situation then try finding an encyclopedia that has a brief entry about your topic to help get you started.
Attached below are some worksheets that will help you start the research process. You may also want to view the tutorials on the right to get a better understanding of the information cycle and how to combine keywords for optimal search results.