Back in the dark ages when I started writing and seeking publication, writers had to rely on low-tech options like the postal service for submissions and rejections (even getting writers guidelines). Research almost certainly meant hoofing it to a library or bookstore or both.
To figure out the ropes on the whole writing/publishing gig, I subscribed to Writer's Digest. I still do, as it keeps up-to-date on trends and is a great resource for both the beginning and established writer.
I also bought a copy of Writer's Market, a giant tome that was the Bible of publishing at the time.
Then I learned about The League of Utah Writers and began attending chapter meetings, entering contests, and attending the annual conferences.
That was pretty much it for resources back then.
Fast forward to the age of Dr. Google and the Internet. No longer do you have to spend money on postage to mail a letter (or an entire manuscript) when you can use e-mail. No longer do you have to dig up resources in a library (although that's still a great place, and sometimes you will need to go there). Just open a browser window and search away.
Back when I started, finding information about how to submit and to who was hard, especially with editor/agent turnover that didn't get updated until next year's Writer's Market. If I accidentally got the wrong name on a letter (say, I used the person who left the job a month ago), it probably wasn't a big deal, because everyone knew that keeping updated was hard.
A truth about the current world of publishing:
You have no excuse for not knowing.
Don't know how to write a query? Google it. Plenty of blogs are out there devoted to that very thing. (One of my favorites: Query Shark.)
Don't know how to format a manuscript? What about revision? Self-editing? Research? Submission? Writer's block? And, and, and . . .
Figure it out. Really. The information is out there for the taking, and in today's world, you have absolutely no excuse for not finding it.
So find industry insiders. Read their blogs. Follow them on Twitter. If you want to freelance, subscribe to newsletters like Funds for Writers. (I subscribe to all three: the regular FFW, Small Markets, and TOTAL.) Follow industry trends. Read.
Still don't know something? Look it up.
When people ask me how to get published, I'm at a bit of a loss, because it's a complex question that could take hours to explain. The answer depends on so many factors, and the process is one that took me years to learn and figure out. I try to answer as best I can, but no matter what I say, it won't be a complete answer.
In the end, the best advice I can give people is this:
Go online and learn about it.