That is one of my favorite books, and I wrote a research paper on it last year. What's your topic?
Your ideas are right on. You first need to write down a solid thesis. It should be analyzing some aspect of the book, not just explaining the plot. For example you might look at Hemingway's use of ____ to develop ____.
Once you have a focus, you need to research criticism on the novel that supports your topic. Find quotes and ideas and organize them into an outline. What points do you want to address, in what order, which criticisms support which aspect, etc... Put your strongest points last.
Then you need to find quotes from the text that support what you are saying. Try not to just use descriptive excerpts, but lines that really give some insight. Dialogue can be very telling. It is also crucial that you apply your own analysis here. The critics help to highlight important aspects of the novel, but you need to do a lot of work on your own.
In the end you want to show (not tell) why your thesis is valid, and have it well backed by critics, text, and of course your own analysis. Good luck, and if you have any more questions, let me know. I hope I was helpful!
Once you've read the story or novel closely, look back over your notes for patterns of questions or ideas that interest you. Have most of your questions been about the characters, how they develop or change?
If you are reading Conrad's The Secret Agent, do you seem to be most interested in what the author has to say about society? Choose a pattern of ideas and express it in the form of a question and an answer such as the following:
Question: What does Conrad seem to be suggesting about early twentieth-century London society in his novel The Secret Agent?
Answer: Conrad suggests that all classes of society are corrupt.
Choosing too many ideas.
Choosing an idea without any support.
Now that you're familiar with the story or novel and have developed a thesis statement, you're ready to choose the evidence you'll use to support your thesis. There are a lot of good ways to do this, but all of them depend on a strong thesis for their direction.
Here's a student's thesis about Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.
In his novel, The Secret Agent, Conrad uses beast and cannibal imagery to describe the characters and their relationships to each other. This pattern of images suggests that Conrad saw corruption in every level of early twentieth-century London society.
This thesis focuses on the idea of social corruption and the device of imagery. To support this thesis, you would need to find images of beasts and cannibalism within the text.