1. When it comes to writing an essay, tracking down relevant resources can be a daunting task. The hard truth is this: the more time you invest in researching, the easier the process becomes. The extent of your search for sources will depend on the required length of your essay. If your assignment is to write a 500-word narrative essay on your trip to Hawaii, there probably won't be much research involved (you may, however, want to collect some information about Hawaii and have an understanding of the various cultures before writing your piece).
Here are a few tips to help you get into research mode:
Understand the assignment requirements - how many words, what format (MLA or APA), what type of essay (narrative, expository, argumentative, analytical or persuasive), etc.?
Have a good understanding of your subject. If you're writing an essay on 'The Great Gatsby', did you read the book, or will you be making things up as you go along? I suggest you read the book from the first page to the last and begin your research based on your knowledge of the story.
Sit down in a quiet place with a pen, a notepad, and your computer.
Using the novel 'The Great Gatsby' as a point of reference, go online and run a Google search. Take a look at the hundreds of links on that story that can help get you going!
My advice? Click on the Wikipedia link first. Why? Wikipedia is always a good place to begin research. Not only will it provide you with lots of helpful information, but it will give you plenty of links to lead your research in some creative directions. Think of Wikipedia as the tree and the many links as the branches. The Wikipedia page on 'The Great Gatsby' will provide you with links to sites on the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, its characters, themes, the various film versions based on the novel, etc. Take a look at this and you'll see what I mean: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby
Use the pen and paper to write down the ideas you collect based on your initial research and create a document to copy/paste every link you believe will be helpful to you in the writing process.
Don't give up until you think you have enough information to write a well-crafted and informative essay. Remember, the goal is to impress your teacher/professor, so the more research you conduct, the more information you can bring to your paper—and the more impressed your readers are likely to be.