The Germans would say the first step is the "Fragestellung," the "question-setting." Every paper should aim to answer a question.
An unanswered question is the same as a problem and an answer is a solution.
Students are thus enabled to think thoughts and get insights they never knew they were capable of.
1.2 The second purpose for writing research paper is to communicate your insights to somebody.
If you think they are wrong, then you will point out some of their weaknesses and propose to do better yourself.
If they leave some aspect untreated, you can make it your aim to treat that.
1.1 The first purpose is by far the more important one for college students.
It works like this: When you have to put your ideas on paper for another to read, you are forced to think in a logical, orderly fashion; otherwise, the paper will be incoherent and incomprehensible.
Your paper should begin by posing this problem or asking your question.
In this way you are able to sort out the complexities of a problem, systematizing them in some way so that they make sense.
If you did not write all this down, there would probably be just a swirl of unrelated ideas in your head (which is the case with most people who never write).
This may include also an observation of how they may have posed the problem differently than you.
3.1 The second half of this step is to explain why you think the problem you have posed deserves another treatment (yours) after others have already presented their solutions.