Dear future Jesse, doing research,
Over the course of the past semester, I conducted student research. It's been quite a process, and I've had a bit of a learning curve to deal with as well. Obviously, I still don't know everything yet, and that's okay, but here are five quick tips I want you to remember.
First, don't worry about the word count. This semester, the minimum word count was 5,000 words without a maximum. I came up with 6,250 words without fluffing it up, so you'll be fine. Worry about the research and the paper, not the word count.
Second, do good background research, even if there's not a lot of background information to be found because your topic is horribly obscure. You will need it.
Third, spend time with your primary sources outside of strictly analyzing them. Don't just rush through the analysis and summary, hang out with the information for a while. Get to know the letters/papers/books/whatever. Really know your source material, preferably before you do the analysis.
Fourth, outline your paper before you write it. I know this is middle school level advice but do it. Also, segment out the paper; sub-headers are totally cool and help visually. It's probably going to become a lot of information, so break it up.
Finally, have the right kind of goals: defined, present, but not too specific. Your research question and thus your accompanying hypotheses will probably change. That's okay. Your original research question is where you start, not where you finish. It's perfectly fine to end up with work that's completely different from your original expectations.
This advice is all free, but I do have one request, future-researcher-Jesse: ask good questions, and seek great answers.
Present-day, May 2018-Jesse Plichta-Kellar