Formulate Your Question Or Statement
Your research may start as a general idea or a specific question or statement.
Your professor might give you general guidelines, but not a specific topic. For example:
"Write a paper on some aspect of school violence."
In this case, you may decide to focus or narrow the topic down into something in which you're interested. Or, you may decide to do some background searching (step 2) before you narrow your topic.
Your professor might assign a specific topic. For example:
"Write a research paper on how high schools can prevent violence in the school."
With either the general topic of school violence, or the specific topic of how high schools can prevent violence, you are now ready to proceed to step 2, getting background information.