Read the assignment instructions thoroughly, so as not to miss any of the requirements.
If necessary re-write the instructions in your own words or prepare a checklist of the important parts to be covered.
Think of a topic that interests you AND also fits the assignment requirement.
Choosing a topic based on one or the other may not work all the time: an interesting topic may not fulfill the assignment requirements. On the other hand. choosing a topic that you are not quite interested in, may make your project feel like a chore, not a pleasure!
After choosing a topic consider the following: How do you want to treat the topic? What is the purpose of writing this paper? Would you like to make a statement of your point of view? Would you like to show an analysis, to help readers draw their own conclusion? Do you want to just share information? These will be argumentative, analytical, or expository (explanatory) papers respectively.
Develop questions/ideas/steps to consider for preparing the paper.
For an argumentative essay, take a position about a subject, and find several sources to back-up an argument.
For an analytical essay, develop research questions, analyze, and synthesize information from several sources to provide answers to the questions.
For an expository (explanatory) essay, develop research questions and provide explanations from several sources to provide answers to the questions.
Plan a basic (database) search strategy using popular keywords associated with your topic