Take time to understand exactly what you are being asked to write and how you will be graded on it. And if you aren’t sure, ask! Ask your teacher for clarification before you even pick a topic. That way, you will be sure you are on the right track.
Next, find reliable resources. Although this may run contrary to what you’ve been told, you can use Wikipedia to write a research paper. But, you cannot use that as a final source. You can use general sources like Wikipedia to get familiar with a topic, find keywords that can further drive your research, and quickly understand large amounts of information. But, for the information you use in your paper, you have to find reliable resources.
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.
Most research papers begin with a thesis statement at the end of an introductory paragraph. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to write a thesis statement as you begin to organize your research. Writing the thesis statement first is helpful because every argument or point you make in your paper should support this central idea you’re putting forward.
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.