You've chosen a topic and established a realistic time-table; it's now time to begin searching for background information. There's no one optimal way to commence the research process. Much depends on one's acquaintance of the library and its resources, on one's work habits, and, of course, on one's knowledge of the topic being researched.
If one is beginning to research a topic about which one knows relatively little, the database Literature Resource Center might be particularly useful. Literature Resource Center provides up-to-date criticism, biographies, bibliographies, work overviews and explications, Web sites, periodical articles, compare and contrast pages, full-text author's works, and reading lists on nearly 130,000 writers in all disciplines, from all time periods and from around the world. It includes the following databases:
In addition to almost 300,000 full-text articles from more than 130 literary journals, Literature Resource Center provides full-text access to Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature and points to over 5,000 evaluated author-related Web sites.