Once you have a basic idea of your topic, look for information to help you narrow down the topic, focus on a specific question, and generate keywords for your searches.
In this part of the process you're just browsing around to see what you find. If you find something you're sure you want to look at later, make sure you keep track of it!
You can start with a look at resources like Wikipedia or other encyclopedias to get some basic definitions and background info. Next you can read some popular sources such as newspapers or magazines to look at some current issues and discussions of the topic. Then, look for some scholarly articles or books to see how scholars think and write about the subject that you're interested in. This will help you formulate a question and become familiar with the kinds of scholarly articles you'll be able to use to do your research.
Student Resources in Context is a good place to start with this basic research. It includes reference content, full-text magazines, academic journals, news articles, primary source documents, images, videos, audio files and links to vetted websites.
CQ Researcher provides journalist reports on a wide variety of topics. Easy to browse, it's a good source to familiarize yourself with current issues.
Once you are familiar with your topic and you're ready to start searching for resources it's time to identify the keywords you'll use to find your sources.
Research question: Is there value in a liberal arts degree?
Find synonyms for your main concepts:
Liberal Arts = humanities, arts, social sciences, general education
Degree = education, major, undergraduate, graduate
Find specific words that relate to qualifying concepts:
Value = knowledge, skills, characteristics, employers, businesses, salaries, debt, loans, jobs, income