Spend time going over the assignment. Look at everything your instructor has provided you with. Carefully read the writing assignment, prompts, grading rubric, or any other materials you’ve received. It might even be helpful to highlight and take notes on the assignment.
But, what is important to remember, is that this is just a starting point. Many students stop right there, and then don’t understand why their instructor graded them poorly on their thesis statement. A thesis needs to be definitive, and should not be about you.
Take what you have learned from a Google search or Wikipedia article and dig deeper. Check out the sources on the article, use keywords from your internet search to search an academic database, or ask an expert whether or not what you learned is valid and if it is, where you can find a reliable source stating the same thing. So, just to be clear: you can use Wikipedia as a starting point in your research, but you should not cite Wikipedia as one of the primary sources for your research paper.
You know, the one where you throw in every bit of interesting research you uncovered, including the fungal growth in the U-joint of your kitchen sink? Everything you learn may be fascinating, but not all of it is going to be relevant to your paper.
After your outline, you can start on your first draft. Take your outline and get the ideas jotted down and form sentences and paragraphs with them. This is the part where you put more detail and life into the paper so people can read it and actually understand it. You can do more needed research if you feel like you’re lacking information. This is only the first draft, so you can still make changes as you go on.