Hello. I was an econ major in college and went through a similar learning curve. I was flat broke during end of 08 beginning of 09 but I really wanted to buy Citi and Ford..man I woulda made a killing.
Theres lots of good info online... but some times you just get information overload. I read Real Money by Jim Cramer, and I had a class in corporate finance..I still can learn more but I feel I understand the basics.
Maybe its my Economics background, but I take a top down view of investing. I look for ideas and industries that I feel are going to grow due to the macro/global outlook. Basic consumer habits are a good preface of research for this. Think of how many people you know that now have Iphones or smartphones right...obviously technology like this is not going away. Or similarly, look at how much natural gas we have, how it carries less CO2 emissions, and compare that with the price of oil. Furthermore, why would companies like Exxon aquire nat gas heavy outfits like XTO.
THEN, you look at the metrics/ the PEG, and DEBT/ FREE CASH (If you find any company with very low debt and high free cash, thats ALWAYS a good thing) etc to find out if something is worth buying.
I think small caps are great for younger people such as ourselves because you have YOUR WHOLE LIFE TO WORK and make money back. However, putting a grand on a small cap that you have researched enough could turn your money into a whole lot more in a short amount of time. What I like to do for small caps is get ideas from the various sites out there, Motley Fool, Mad Money, magazines etc... and then research them (with the big picture in mind) and look at their ratios. An example of this would be the stock ZAGG. ZAGG makes protective covers for iphones and the like. Consider people are buying alot more smart phones now, smart phones are expensive so they are likely giong to protect their purchase. ZAGG has very few competitors which means good market share....then look at the financials.
FWIW, My portfolio hasnt been around that long to really show the gains I think I will have. There are much more knowledgeable people for this on the site than myself as well.
PS: Do start up your ROTH IRA, its never too early to save for retirement.