Researching an Industry or Specific Company
Market Research, Industry Research,
How to Learn About an Industry
or a Specific Company
An organized procedure
to research an industry OR a specific company is provided below along with the links
and resources to actually do the research. If you are only interested in
a specific company, start at Step 8, then lightly cover some
of the other areas to learn about industries the company operates in. Following the entire process
will allow you to gain an in-depth understanding of the industry or firm, far beyond that gained
by focusing purely on financial data. Specific parts of the process can be used to rapidly
investigate certain aspects of the industry or company. Our site is frequently used by those
considering entering new industries, competitive intelligence professionals, research librarians,
market researchers, economic development professionals, students, investors, bankers and many others.
" How to Learn About an Industry or a Specific Company" is a Polson Enterprises
web site. If you have any comments about the site or the procedure, please email
them to us.
OUR STEP BY STEP PROCESS
OSU# = Oklahoma State Univ. Main Library (Edmond Low Library) call numbers
For items not available on-line, library call numbers are provided for the libraries we normally use. Search your library's
catalog using the title and author information we provide to find your library's call numbers. Note, many library catalogs
are now online.
OU# = University of Oklahoma Main Library (Bizzell Library) call numbers
Oklahoma Department of Libraries allows one stop search of major OK libraries
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Some industries, such as Medical Devices, have extensive portals to industry and regulatory information.
- Identify the Industry
Some companies are involved in many industries.
- Find the SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) Code(s).
The Federal Office of Management and Budget defines and names industries and establishes a structure
(SIC Codes) for relating industries to one another. SIC Codes are frequently used to identify industries in
census data, financial data, market reports and many other applications useful to those doing market research.
Knowing the code(s) will be very helpful to you at later stages in this process. Although of great use, they do
have a few problems.
The primary SIC Codes reference is a book, STANDARD INDUSTRIAL CLASSIFICATION MANUAL 1987
OSU#DBU S787 1987 (In Federal Documents)
SIC Codes can also be identified using some online indexes. The sites tend to move around a little so
we listed several. You may also find the interface used by one site more helpful than others for your specific needs.
- Find the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) Code(s)
NAICS is in process of replacing the SIC system.
You can read more about them on the U.S. Census NAICS page
Some SIC / NAICS conversion tables are available online.
- If you are interested in international trade, find the harmonization codes (codes used with tariffs that can be used to find statistics). Note- the codes for imports and exports are different.
- Seek General Industry Information
The sources are listed in the order we normally use them. Many are indexed by SIC code. You will need the codes you identified in step #1. Several of those housed at OSU's library are in the reference area.
- Statistical Abstract of the U.S. (Annual)
This is a tremendous resource. The government used to print an annual edition, then stopped for several years. Then they put
them online for several years. Then they cut funding in FY 2012 and dropped it. You can still try to find current data from the sources it cites.
A Canadian version is also available on the web. It is titled Strategis.
- FEDSTATS web page provides access to many government statistics.
- Dun & Bradstreet, Gale Group and Plunkett Research print a number of major resources for industry groups and specific industries. Most of them are updated every few years. Some can usually be found in the business reference section of major libraries.
- Manufacturing & Distribution USA is published by Gale and updated in even numbered years.
Older copies are titled, Manufacturing USA.
OSU# 338.4767097 M294 YEAR
- Agriculture, Mining & Construction USA
- Information, Finance & Services USA. OSU# 338.4561 I43 2001
- Service Industries USA. OSU# 338.4 5491 1999
- Transportation & Public Utilities USA. OSU# 338.0973 T772
- Wholesale & Retail Trade USA (now incorporated in Manufacturing & Distribution USA)
- Encyclopedia of American Industries 2000. One volume covers manufacturing industries and the second covers service and non-manufacturing industries.
OSU #338.097303 E56 1998 (1998 edition)
- Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries. (annual). Published by Gale, it covers many new rapidly developing industries.
An excellent source for new industries for which there is at least a little information available on, but not yet covered by
the traditional sources.
- Baker Library Industry Guides several excellent industry specific guides. Note these guides
often point you to sources of current and historical information, they do not directly provide it.
- U.S. Market Trends and Forecasts. OSU#338.5540973 U105 1999.
- World Market Share Reporter. OSU# 338.74021 W927 1997/98
- International Directory of Company Histories. (30 plus volume set) OSU# 338.7409 I61
- "Dun & Bradstreet/ Gale Group Industry Handbooks" covering several areas: Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, Computers & Software and Broadcasting & Telecommunications, Construction and Agriculture,
Entertainment and Hospitality, Insurance and Health & Medical Services.
- Plunkett Research prints Plunkett Research Industry Almanacs for a wide range of industries.
- US Agriculture Statistics quick ag stats, via census data
- Bureau of Transportation Statistics provides actual downloadable databases
- The U.S. International Trade Administration prints an excellent annual overview of U.S. industries that includes a global perspective titled,
U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook.. It is available in our bookstore. In
addition to being a great reference in its own right, it provides many sources for more in-depth information as well. The government decided to quit
publshing it with the 2000 issue.
- U.S. Dept of Commerce Market Research Library search page for country reports by industry.
- Online Seminars, Lessons, Classes, and other training
- Apple iTunes University offers over 250,000 lectures, films, videos in a wide range of
industries and topics. Many are free. You will need to download some software in order to view them on a PC.
- VideoLectures pre recorded scientific lectures for free
Check our Industry Portals
page for a portal in your industry.
Standard and Poors Industry Survey
OSU# 332.67 S785s
I believe this two volume set is printed each 6 months.
VALUE LINE INVESTMENTS SURVEY
OSU# 332.05 V215 (2nd Floor Reference Area)
Analyzes stocks by industry, list major events, concerns, trends, future expectations.
Note: in the old days, census data was about the only resource available in many fields. It remains an excellent source in some areas such as the current industrial
reports. However in many fields, industries are now moving at a much faster pace and new product categories not even covered by census data are of interest. In those
fields, industry trade associations and groups providing coverage of specific industries are far more productive than several year old or non existent census data.
Do not get me wrong, census data can be helpful in many applications and especially in an historical perspective, but in breaking industries you must use other sources.
In addition to the Population Census the government regularly (each 5 years) conducts extensive censuses of business areas. 1987, 1992 and 1997 are the two most recent business census years.
- Census Scope Univ of Michigan graphically presents census data (great for trends)
- Follow the data found in the STATISTICAL ABSTRACT OF THE U.S. (Step 2.1) back to the original source. There is often more information there.
- Use the annual CENSUS CATALOG AND GUIDE
Identify the specific census reports needed.
Different Censuses cover these areas:Construction, Retail Trade, Manufacturing Industries, Service Industries, Transportation, Mining, and Agriculture.
Older census data is available at the OSU Library Federal Documents area.
Current Census information is available on-line. It is usually easier to find the older documents in paper form and learn more about their content and exact titles and then begin searching for the online updated versions. The 4 major online sources are:
Annual Corporate Reports
- Census Bureau on the web.
- FEDWORLD a major U.S. government information portal.
- Current Industry Reports (CIR) are U.S. government prepared reports on many industries and provide a great deal of current information. A somewhat similar set of reports filed by the Canadian government,
Canadian Industry Statistics, is also a great resource.
- Some Oklahoma Census Data is available on-line in the Origins database.
These provide a great deal of general industry information as well as specific company information. They also identify government regulations effecting the industry and often give market share information.
Look up reports from several companies in the industry to get a feel for the reoccurring issues.
Use this information and any other issues found from the literature to develop a list of the industry's current concerns. If you are only investigating a specific company, look up its direct competitors as well.
Annual reports are available several sources
- Several companies are now putting their annual reports on their web site or using a 3rd party to post them online. Many are available at AnnualReports.com and/or
Public Register Online.
- Write the company and request one. You might want to identify other companies in the same industry or with the same SIC / NIACS codes
to determine their competitors and others in the same industry. If you gather several annual reports from the same industry, you can use
them to construct an industry profile. Edgar can be used to identify
other publicly traded companies with the same SIC code.
- Many can be ordered directly out of the Wall Street Journal. They are labeled with a "club" symbol in the stock price section of the
newspaper or can be ordered directly from the online Wall Street Journal site.
- OSU Microfilm Library has a SEC Microfiche collection which includes annual reports.
- OU Microfilm Library has a larger and more current SEC Microfiche collection.
- Bucmaster provides scanned copies of annual reports for hundreds of firms (fee based)
If you wish to follow the company long term, consider purchasing stock in the company. It will assure you get current annual reports and stockholder mailings.
Some brokers specialize in odd-lot (single share or fractional) purchases.
- One Share of Stock, Inc. Home Page
Some specific libraries that may be helpful in covering an industry are:
- Wall Street Transcripts provides full text transcripts of many speeches and interviews
(for a fee). You may be able to locate a speech by a major executive of the company under study, or find them evaluated
in a speech by a competitor or industry analysts.
- Transcripts TV Television News Transcripts ABC news, 2020, Nightline, World News Tonight, Primetime, etc
- UPI News Photos Archive
- Federal News Service government transcripts, etc
- British Newsreel Directory 1896-1970 many have free versions
- Local News: Be sure to search local and regional newspapers where major companies of the industry are located. When searching for information on specific companies (later section) often locally, they are a big fish in a small pond. Much more detailed information is available in local papers. Many small town papers are not indexed by major sources and require local indexes or hand searching.
- New York Times searchable 1851-Present
- The archives of Business Week magazine contain articles on many
companies, industries, technologies and issues.
- News Now a major news aggregator, can search for 1 word only free
- Rocket Info News a news search engine. Per research buzz tip, if you add the word "eyewitness" to your search you will often turn up TV and other on the scene reports.
- TechCrunch Blog tracks web2.0 companies - good source of web tech business news
- International News Coverage : General industries and specific companies are frequently covered in foreign newspapers and news media. Many have English versions available, but often are not easily searchable, especially
not from a historical perspective. The sites below provide reasonable access to international news.
Look for industry statistics
PREDICASTS F&S Index, an index of forecasts
- Statistical Universe online database at OSU includes American Statistics Index and Index to International Statistics. Hard copies are on the 5th floor.
This is a printed index of hundreds of business periodicals, specifically indexes articles making forecasts of the future of a particular industry. It is printed in different frequencies (weekly and monthly). The weekly version is the fastest printed index available to cover current issues. It is indexed by both company name and by SIC code which makes it easy to follow an industry. OSU no longer receives this publication.
OSU# 016.332 F9821 old issues in Second Floor Reference area
TULSA PUBLIC LIBRARY 4th Floor Business area has the CD-ROM version. It contains the index, plus the actual text referenced.
Great Studies on Some Basic Small Businesses
Business and Research Advisor BERA - Library of Congress, covering one industry a quarter. Nice materials. Have done auto and sports industries so far.
- IRS Market Studies
The IRS prepares Market Segment Specialization Programs, MSSPs to bring examiners up to speed by industry. The reports cover about 60 industries. Industries covered are
predominately those you typically might think of auditing (service industries), but a wide range of other industries are also included. Coverage is excellent, their purpose is to get auditors up to speed in that particular field, give them the buzzwords, and general layout of the industry. They provide and excellent general overview of the industries covered. Sometimes a link near the bottom of their site points to additional similar studies sold in paper by the USGPO / Superintendent of Documents.
- The University of Missouri provides excellent profiles for some of the typical "mom and pop" businesses. They call them Industry at a Glance reports
- Baker Library Industry Search Guides Harvard Business School Library provides research guides for about 20 industries.
- Dept of Labor Career Guide great summaries of hundreds of industries.
- It is dated material, but in the 1960's the Small Business Administration published a series of about 20 books called the 'Starting and Managing Series". Each book is for a specific small business (car wash, service station, jewelry store, pet shop, restaurant, shoe repair, flower shop, retail music store, engineering service, small service business, etc.). I first encountered the books in the Milwaukee Public Library. You can search their online catalog for "starting and managing series" some will be listed. If you click on one of them, a link to the series will be provided. They are probably in many major libraries. Again, it is 1960's info, but most of it still applies.
ZapData.com a D&B site provides some nice industry reports for free by SIC number. (See "industry reports" link near bottom center edge of page.
SBDC Market Research Reports Small Business Development Center market research reports on many industires dominated by small businesses
DirectMag.com Direct Marketing magazine (covers direct marketing industry) provides coverage of many industries
Some businesses sell industry marketing studies or provide indexes to existing studies.
Most market research firms follow many industries or provide research on demand (assemble the info once it is needed) - but some follow only one industry. They become almost a de facto source for info on that industry. Usually, but not always,
these single industry research firms operate in faster changing industries.
Firms covering a wide range of industries include:
Green Book is a major directory of market research companies, what services they provide and what industries they work in. It is a little weighted toward companies providing focus groups, brand research and surveys.
Some businesses and governments provide industry studies on line.
Search for additional books on the industry.You may be able to identify them using these sources, then find a copy in your local library.
Identify Trade Organizations, Publications & Trade Shows
- The National Trade and Professional Association (NTPA) Directory
Can be used to find the associations associated with the industry. They usually collect industry data. Many do not share it with
nonmembers. You may be able to join or find what you need through an existing member. Many have publications including magazines and some print market studies. Several now maintain web sites and provide some info online.
- Gale prints, The Encyclopedia of Associations
- Online databases of associations can also be used to identify trade associations. Some online resources are:
- Identify and Search the Industry's Trade and Consumer Magazines
Some tools are supplied below.
- Identify Internal Publications / Magazines
Several companies print an internal publication / magazine for employees that is also placed in local libraries or sent to suppliers. Some large companies send their publication to major libraries. You must do some digging to find of their existence and locate
them, but they are usually well worth your time.
- Request Media Kits (Kits magazines use to try to sell advertising) from Media and Trade Magazines. They usually include statistics on consumption of their readers (what kind of materials or services they purchase and how much, also how many
subscribers and pass through readers they claim).
- Tools for identifying magazines covering a field of interest:
- Well known magazine directories (at least one will be available in most major public libraries) include:
- Bacon's Directory of Magazines
- Ulrich's International Periodical Guide is another very useful directory of magazines found in many major libraries.
- Burrelle's prints Burrelle's Magazine and Newsletter Directory.
- Gale prints a four volume Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media that provides address, phone #, key officers, and website address.
- Media Finder also allows searching for magazines by general area and by title.
- Trade magazines can be identified in SRDS (Standard Rate and Data Service) Business Publications OSU# 659 132025 B9791. It identifies the magazines by topic, their distribution, and their readership.
- Some sites identify trade publications and provide free subscriptions to those qualified:
- Google search for "industry name" "trade journal"
- Look at the industry associations identified in the previous step. Do any of them print a trade journal?
- Consumer Magazines can be identified by subject in the STANDARD Periodical Directory OSU# 016.05 S785 (Behind Reference Desk on 2nd Floor). It may also identify some additional Trade Magazines.
- Business - Magazines they provide subscriptions to institutions and large companies, but their list of publications can be helpful in identifying those covering specific industries.
- Major publishers of trade magazines include:
- Searching Technical and Scientific Journals and Related Publications
- High-Wire Hosted Journals search over a hundred scientific journals at once
- Elsevier is a major publisher of research journals. Many can be identified from their
site. Many major libraries allow online searching of their publications through their Science Direct database
- Scirus Elsevier provides this scientific search engine that searches journals and the web for scientific information
- Storming Media
- WorldCat finally going at least partially public with its great database of library collections
- Science Citations Index from Web of Science is database available at the OSU Library. It allows searching for terms, papers citing other papers, papers citing a paper. It is a tremendous resource.
- Ingenta (the old CARL system) can be used online to search thousands of journals. Searching is free, however a fee must be paid to access the articles. The citation (free) can often be used to find the article, or at least a portion of it, online from a free source via the Google search engine.
- Taylor & Francis a major publisher of research journals. Many can be accessed online for a fee
- McGraw Hill Primis System their Primis system can be used to search their online content available for creating custom class textbooks. Content includes both technical and business type materials.
- Inderscience Publishers publish numerous science and technical journals. Much material is online!
- Emerald publishes about 100 management and other technical journals with a U.K. flavor including the Rapid Prototyping Journal
- Wiley Online Library opened August 2010
- E-Print search a large database of online technical papers and allows online documents to be added via links
- eFeeds web feeds from electronic journals RSS and html
- Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources (SPARC) promotes many open (free or nearly free) scholarly journals. See their "List of Publishing Partners" and "Directory of Publishing Partners" available from this page.
- SAE Society of Automotive Engineers papers
- Public Library of Science several public (free) science and medical journals
- Biomed Central an open access journal publisher
- Eureka Alert searchable science news from American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science
- IHS U.K. version of NTIS
- IOP Electronic Journals access to European scientific journals
- Smithsonian/NASA Atrophysical Data System huge database of technical papers
- Citation Indexes
- GetCited.org literature for citations (search it!)
- Science Citations Index - great source for finding articles that cite one another, leads you to more sources. Is available at OSU.
- The U.S. Government is a major publisher of technical information and business information.
- Japan / Japanese Technical Information
- Community of Science provides access to current research and several scientific / technical databases. The site is primarily for academic users, but can be accessed from many university libraries.
- BizJournals is a major publisher of local/regional business journals. Their articles can be searched online.
- High Beam Research allows online searching of many magazines and news sources. Requires a subscription. We subscribe and find it very helpful.
- MagPortal great portal to a zillion magazine articles online
- Mondo Times identifies publications and media outlets worldwide
- Consumer magazines are indexed by the Periodical Index on the OSU Library Computer System.
- Who Owns What Click on a publisher to see what they print, by Columbia Journalism Review
It may be difficult to find an index to some trade publications. The magazine may provide and annual index or you may have to leaf through them.
Attending trade shows of the industry being studied is a great way to learn about it. You can identify major players, view the products, accumulate
product literature, and meet representatives of many of the companies involved. List of exhibitors and lists of attendees are also great tools. Many
major shows can be identified at:
Learn About the Consumers of the Product or Service (all the way to the end users)
Demographics, Geography of Consumers, Amounts Consumed, etc.
- The Lifestyle Market Analyst (Annual)
OU# HF 5415 33 U6 L56 1993
Published by SRDS. Provides data on how people spend time and money.
- Lifestyle Zipcode Analyst (Annual)
Published by SRDS. Similar data to The Lifestyle Market Analyst except population is divided by zip codes.
- Simmons Study of Media and Markets (Annual)
This 30 plus volume set contains data on the sales volumes and the purchasers of consumer products. Also, it allows you to profile consumers by the media (magazines, tv, radio, newspapers, etc) they do or do not receive. The study is very expensive, but many older copies are donated
to major institutional libraries. It is a great resource. Simmons, now owned by Experion, also publishes several other large scale studies.
- The New American Family; Significant and Diversified Lifestyles
by Simmons Market Research OU# HF 5415.33 U6 N49 1992.
- The Source Book of Zipcode Demographics
OU# HA 203 .S66 V8
- County and City Data Book (Annual)
Lists about 180 economic and social variables for each site. Is partially available on-line.
- American Demographics magazine.
OSU# 301.32973 A512
American Demographics is searchable on-line at their web site.
- Identify Consumer Magazines
Use the tools discussed in the Trade Organizations & Publications section above, also request Media Kits as described there.
Examine the Patent and Trademark Situation in the Industry
- Use our How to Conduct a Patent Search Page to search U.S. patents.
- Copyright & Trademarks are very important in many industries. Trademarks can be searched at the OSU Patent and Economic Development Library and online at the USPTO web site. In the US, trademarks must be registered in specific classes depending upon the field they are to be used in. They must also be registered with other countries to be recognized internationally. Copyrights can be renewed, if they are not, they fall into the public domain. For example, the film It's a Wonderful Life is now in the public domain.
Those concerned with licensing of intellectual property and technology transfer issues may find the links below helpful:
Those concerned with developing new inventions will find our Invention Information Center helpful.
Determine the Legal Issues of the Industry
- INDEX TO LEGAL PERIODICALS
OSU# 016.347 138 (2nd Floor Reference Desk Area)
OU LAW LIBRARY has a CD-ROM version
OU LAW LIBRARY also has most of the periodicals that are indexed
- Many of the legal issues are discussed in annual corporate reports of the companies in the industry (see the "Seek General Industry Information" section)
- Lexis Nexis Academic database is available at many libraries, including at OSU. Excellent source for searching for cases involving a specific company.
- WestLaw WestLaw
- Court Link Lexis Nexis tool for searching State and Federal Court dockets.
- Google Scholar allows legal case searching
- AMERICAN LEGAL REPORTS
This is a several hundred volume set at the OU LAW LIBRARY (1st Floor).
It consists of reports written about specific issues. It is printed in a series (they are on series 5 now). Paper indexes are provided. You will be able to find reports on almost any industry. The reports consist of discussions of cases (with case references) about
specific issues. It is an excellent reference.
- For current court records, try PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).
- Oklahoma Public Legal Research System
- VersusLaw case searching for a fee
Examine the Regulatory Issues of the Industry
Many industries are heavily regulated (transportation, utilities, food, explosives, medical devices, etc.). Typically, older industries and those having a bearing on the safety of the general population are the most regulated.
Special licenses and permits may be required. Many regulations require extensive filing of reports and inspections which may be public records. Environmental compliance records for a site or for the equipment produced by the manufacturer may be available. Some data may be found with industry regulating bodies such as the EPA and OSHA. The amount and intensity of regulations in an industry can seriously effect the ability of a new player to enter.
- TRI Explorer searches EPA database for company records
- EPA My Environment easy way to find local emission sites and their stats, can be compared w/competitors for volume, etc
- EPA Air Operating Permits find info on sites with emissions
- EPA Compliance Docket database
- EPA Part 70 Operating Permits are issued to facilities emitting large amounts of emissions. The permits are issued by the state the facility is in. They are issued at times of major construction / modifications and often contain a great deal of data.
- MSDSSearch Search Material Safety Data Sheets for company and product information.
- Right-to-Know Network (RTK) extensive environmental databases. Some information is a little old.
- Comm 2000 distribute US and International standards, regulations, etc
- Better Business Bureau
- THOMAS: Legislative Information Proposed and recent Government Regulations
- GPO Access to U.S. Code, Federal Register & other Government Publications
- OSHA Enforcement Inspections by SITE (company name)
- Consumer Product Safety Commission See the business section to find regulations.
You can also search for recalls here.
- Small Business Administration Advocacy their data section contains many census reports by SIC / NAICS not available elsewhere
- FedSpending.org great database of contract and grant spending from OMBWatch.org which also watches proposed regulations.
- Regulations.Gov allows searching across many agencies for proposed regulations now accepting comments from the public plus case dockets from many agencies
- Some government agencies still have their own online "Docket" sites with information about cases, decisions, comments on proposed regulations, etc. They can often provide a wealth of industry and specific company information. Sometimes complete copies of market studies are contained within them. A few are listed below.
- Life Cycle Environment Assessment - U.S. Patent 5,652,708 and U.S. Patent 5,852,560 and related "Inventory Database for Life Cycle Assessment" on yet2.com show ways of estimating life time environmental impacts. Many variables in those databases can be useful to market researchers, as they become more current, they will be more valuable.
- MERCATUS government regulation think tank, evaluates economic performance of regulations, suggests changes, new rules (Brooklings Institution and American Enterprise Institute look at broader issues) this group looks at the details. They are housed at George Mason University and publish indepth studies of many proposed regulations.
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