Writing a research paper in college is practically the same as cooking. Your research materials are your ingredients and you have to find a method to prepare and cook your materials into a delicious meal (finished paper).
Creating an outline is really about structuring your paper. Don’t be too formulaic, but it can be helpful to follow patterns and guides. In high school you might have written three- or five-paragraph essays, and it’s okay to use those same patterns for a college research paper, but be sure that whatever format you choose makes sense for your paper.
And now what you have been waiting for — research! This step is pretty flexible; different people will research for a paper in different ways. However, it’s important to stay focused and move pretty quickly. After all, you still have to write your research paper.
If you have two main points in your thesis, three or five main sections might not work for your research paper. If the assignment asks you to introduce a topic, explain different opinions on the topic, and then choose and explain your opinion, then your paper probably needs three main sections, one for each of those objectives.
If you want to find helpful and reliable sources of information, the library is literally the best place to look around. There are numerous books, published articles, journals and etc. that you can choose from about your chosen topic.