Once you have narrowed your topic and established a working thesis, you can start researching your essay. Begin by writing what you know about the topic before you go to the library or search the Internet. Generally, the source of information that is assumed to be common knowledge does not have to be cited as a source. However, you must cite the source of all quotations and ideas that come from another writer. While paraphrasing is a valuable way to summarize long passages or ideas from other writers, you must still cite the original source of your information.
Write an outline to help focus and develop the main ideas which support or explain your thesis. You can organize your ideas in a variety of spatial or chronological ways. Although a detailed written outline may seem like extra work, it is an essential tool for writing a good first draft. Starting with an outline will help you stay focused, which saves time later.