Start your research by reading some background information on the topic. There are tools to help you understand the major points of your topic, what is known about it, and how it relates to other topics.
But you need to be careful! Not all information is created equally. Some background information in newspaper and magazines articles are opinion pieces, editorials and op-eds. They may be written by experts, by reporters who may not be experts, and in some cases (like blog comments on news web sites) anonymous authors.
So where can I find reliable background information?
Some common resources include dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, and bibliographies. The library has these in both print and electronic forms, and they can be located with the library catalog or databases. Some of these resources can be found in the magazines and newspapers located in the large general databases like Academic Search Premier, OmniFile Full Text, and Academic OneFile.
There are also specialized databases that have articles and reports with good background information on a wide range of topics. These include CQ Researcher, Opposing Viewpoints, and Issues and Controversies. These databases are particularly good at presenting objective information on social issues currently making headlines. They present well-balanced overviews with analyses of both sides of the argument or issue.