...for research is when I'm stuck. Doesn't sound very smart, does it? What I mean is, I don't necessarily research the place I'm writing about, the profession, the weather, etc. before I start writing. The beginnings of stories, for me, are kind of like epiphanies. Some of my writer friends talk about 'seeing' a fully-drawn scene and writing it down. I'm like that, kind of. I see a character, maybe two, hear a bit of dialogue and I'm off. The more the character 'talks' the more I see - foliage, buildings, beaches. It kind of draws itself in my imagination. All because the character is talking to me.
So I let that character talk and talk and talk. Until they can't talk any more. Sometimes they stop talking because I've written them into a corner or because I need to know something they aren't telling me. In either case, from that point, the research starts. I look up websites with pictures of the place I'm writing about, research the professions of my main characters, what homes in that area are built like/from, what the decor is..you name it, I look it up. Google is my friend, although I try to look at at least three sites before making a decision on anything. I also ask my friends and CPs (Facebook and Twitter are my friends when questions come calling), but I also try to look through professional sites - journalism, investment banking...and, on sites like the one for pro surfers or rock stars, the eye candy isn't bad, either.
From that research I may - or may not - find pictures of my main characters, people who remind me of them or look like them in some way. I make a collage of the 'best' pictures I find that evoke the feeling of that book on Pinterest and I make a collage pic that I print off and put on my writing board. While I'm making the collages, I'll also make my WIP playlist. Sometimes this is fast - less than an afternoon. Sometimes it takes days and I write a little and research a little. It's a clunky process but it works for me.
How about you? What's your research process?