There is one thing that sets a research paper apart from other types of writing and that is the research or the collecting of information on a subject put forth by others. However, it is important to note that a research paper has a thesis or an argument; it is not merely a regurgitation of what other scholars have said about the work.
I would suggest doing a little pre-research into your topic to ensure there is enough information to write your paper, as you probably have to write a certain number of pages. Once when I was in college I had to switch topics because I found virtually no research on the topic I wanted to write about.
A research paper is a different sort of beast. You need to allow plenty of time to collect sources and read and sort through them. Your text book may be a good starting point and contain basic information about your topic, however, a trip to the library is advisable. Check for books and articles in relevant periodicals. In the United States there is a program known as Inter-Library Loan. This means when you search the card catalog books show up that are not in your library’s collection, however, you can request these books to be mailed to your library (ask your librarian about this). If you want to use Inter-Library Loan you will need to allow extra time, as the book will be mailed to your library. The internet can also be a good tool for collecting information but make sure the site is credible. If you are a student, your university probably has access to online databases such as Jstor. These are useful tools where you can potentially find more articles about your topic. When reading through these sources be sure to take good notes. Always document the book title, author and page that you are making notes from. This will make it easier to revisit the information if needed and it will make writing the citations in your paper easier.
After collecting your sources and gathering information, you will first need to write an outline. I do not like writing outlines; however, I do it because it gets my thoughts in order and gives you a structure for your paper. Once you have written the outline, use it to write your first draft. Remember, your first draft is not your final draft! Re-read the draft and correct any mistakes you find. Once you have revised your paper, the most important step is to have someone proof read the draft. Your professor may offer to proof read your paper. If your professor does not offer help, you can go to the campus writing lab and they will go through the paper with you. Furthermore, if you have a family member who is good at writing ask them for help. My mom always proof reads my papers, even now. I will even proof read your paper if you give me three or four days to do it (firstname.lastname@example.org). Once you get your paper back from your proof reader, make the corrections they suggested. Then print your paper out and read through it looking for spelling and punctuation mistakes. Sometimes we type fast and do not notice our mistakes on screen. Once you have done this make sure your sources are cited correctly. I always use Purdue Universities online writing lab, they provide examples of MLA, APA, AMA and Chicago Manual Style formatting.