The first step in the research process is to be sure you understand the assignment. Read through it carefully and get a clear understanding of what your professor is looking for. Make sure you are know what type of assignment it is: literature review; pro/con paper, annotated bibliography, etc. Know when the assignment is due? You can then create a timeline for what you should be doing and when you should be doing it. It is never a good idea to leave a writing assignment to the last minute as it takes time to gather the information and then compile it into a well-written paper.
If you are still not sure, talk to your professor immediately. He/She will be more than happy to help you. Remember, you are probably not the only one in the class who has questions about what is required.
Click on the following link to a Powerpoint that demonstrates how to decipher a sample assignment.
Following are links to additional sources that demonstrate the steps you should follow to help you better understand your assignment.