It was suggested that I write do series on how to write a research paper. I will add a new step each week.
Step 1: Choosing a Topic
You cannot begin to write a research paper without a topic. Choosing a topic may seem like a simple task, but it is sometimes a complicated process. As undergraduates, you are typically assigned to write a review of the research in a particular area, such as psychological disorders or genetic diseases. Pick something that interests you! For some, writing papers is a tedious task. Picking an enjoyable topic rather than choosing an easy topic, such as one in which you know a lot of information exists (e.g. a topic the media covers regularly) may make the process more interesting.
When you have no idea what topic to choose, talk to your professor/instructor or flip through your book to get an idea. Once you have chosen a general area as your focus (it could be as general as "depression" or "Huntington's disease"), perform a Google Scholar search to see what information exists on the subject. For example, when searching "depression," you may come across articles regarding ethnicity or gender, and decide it would be interesting to write your paper on depression in non-Western cultures, for instance. It may help to think about your topic as a question -- Why is depression more prevalent in Western cultures than non-Western cultures? From this point, you can move into the next stage of writing your paper, which I will discuss next week.