Special Types of Business Information & Data
Business & Management home > Special Types of Information & Data
- Company Information
- Industry Information
- Legal Information
- Proprietary Information
- Theses and Dissertations
In addition to the background information you find in books and videos, and the research you locate in periodical literature, other excellent sources of business information exist. The following list explains where you can find special types of information that might enhance your research project.
Note: Access to the online subscription databases listed throughout this document is limited to currently registered students, faculty, and staff of Webster University. Complete lists of the business and management databases available through the library's website, are available by following the link to Articles/Databases on the home page.
Note: Call numbers for print materials in Webster University's Emerson Library are provided in parentheses. Extended campus students may wish to check the catalog of your local library to see if the resource is available and where it is shelved.
Directories are a good place to find background information, or to find companies based on certain criteria. The company itself may release information through financial statements, annual reports and press releases. Investment reporting services are also useful for quick company snapshots and may provide in-depth company or industry analysis.
There are several standard business reference book publishers that list companies by name, geographic area, line of business, etc. These include Standard & Poor's, Dun & Bradstreet, Lexis/Nexis and Ward's. These company directories are often helpful for finding background information. Increasingly, these directories are available online via a library subscription.
The Business Insights: Essentials (formerly Business and Company Resource Center) database (available through the Library Web site) has a company directory of large public and private U.S. and international companies. Simply do a company name or ticker symbol. You may also search for companies in a specific industry (using the SICs and NAICS code) or in a geographic location.
The LEXIS-NEXIS Academic database offers access to multiple company directories and can cover small to large companies in a single search. Access the search form under the Business tab. An Adobe PDF Guide to Searching Companies on Lexis-Nexis Academic is linked here.
Sorkins, Dun & Bradstreet, and Polk are commercial publishers which compile directories of regional (e.g. for a city or a metropolitan area) businesses. Because they cover a smaller area, these directories are often the best place to search for smaller companies which are usually not listed in the international/national directories. Check with your local library to see what is available for your geographic region. There is a trend to provide Internet access to these regional business directories. For example, the Sorkins Online directory allows one to search for companies in St Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago but access is limited to patrons on a Webster Campus in Missouri or Illinois.
Public companies are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to release periodic financial statements (e.g. 10K's and 10Q's) and an Annual Report to Shareholders(ARS). The annual report must contain financial statements and often contains an operating review of the company's achievements. Filing and forms can be obtained free or charge from the SEC's Edgar website and from the Library's subscription databases like Lexis/Nexis Academic.
Library databases to find public company financial statements:
Standard & Poor's Net Advantage contains detailed financial statements, stock and industry reports. Search by company name or ticker to access a menu of available data and reports. A short, 3-minute, video, Finding Financials in Standard & Poor's Net Advantage can help you use the Compustat Excel Analytics module of the database to find company financials and ratios and compare them to other companies in the same industry. (Please note that these presentations require the ability to play Flash and mp3 files.)
The LEXIS-NEXIS Academic database offers access to financial statements from multiple business publishers and the SEC's filings. Access the search form under the Get Company Info. tab.
Public companies release information about themselves through their annual reports to shareholders (ARS). The SEC requires that certain financial statements are included in the ARS. Many companies also include a letter from the top executive(s); a report focusing on the company's achievements and prospects; and photographs, charts and graphs. While the annual report and company press releases may be biased (the company is trying to sell stock after all), it may give you some insight into the company's strategic plans. A company's Web site (you can often find it listed in a company directory) is usually the best place to look for the ARS and press releases. Annual reports are often linked from the "Investor Relations" section of the Web site. There are also Web sites which collect annual reports.
Private companies (those which do not publicly trade stock) are not required to publish information so it is often necessary to glean information from secondary sources, e.g. business magazines, trade publications and local newspapers. Check out the section of this guide on Finding Articles for more information.
Investment and stock advisory services are useful for both quick overviews and in-depth analysis of a company's investment potential. This information may also be useful in comparing companies to the industry in which they compete.
- The current edition of the Value Line Investment Survey covers large-cap stocks. This online database is arranged by broad industry and provides a one page report of each company surveyed.
- The Value Line: Small & Mid-Cap Edition (REF HG4501 .V262) is available in paper at Emerson Library and many public and academic libraries. Contact the Emerson Library Reference Desk (314-968-6950 or 1-800-985-4279) to see which companies are included in this print reference source. Webster U extended campus students may request a copy of a report using the library's Document Delivery Service.
- The Business & Company Resource Center carries investment reports from Reuters. Do a company search to retrieve the company profile then use the "Investment Reports" tab. The "Financials" tab accesses basic stock data and financials.
For additional online business data sources, check out the Business and Finance database page. Here you'll find business valuation resources for both public and private company sales and information on mergers & acquisitions. The Management and Human Resources page will link you to specialized databases and publications dealing with human resources, information technology management, and marketing.
It is often necessary to compare a single company to other companies in the same industry or to the industry as a whole. This might be especially useful for case study analysis, preparing marketing plans, and when making investment decisions.
The U.S. government developed the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes as a way to numerically track industrial activity. After passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the SIC codes where updated to cover the broader North American geographic area and to include emerging industries and their products, and service industries. The new North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), pronounced "nakes", replaced the four-digit SIC code with a six-digit number which allows a greater number of goods, industries, and services to be included. For more information on NAICS codes (and the SIC code conversion) see the Census Bureau's North American Industry Classification System(NAICS) page.
Here is a screen shot from the government's website showing the hierarchical structure of the NAICS codes and the conversion of the four-digit 1987 SIC code to the more specific six-digit 2002 NAICS code.
Why are NAICS (and SICs) important to you? Many print and electronic resources use the NAICS/SIC code numbers as a way of gathering information about an industry. For example, some databases will allow you to search by NAICS/SIC code to create a list of all the companies which do business in one industry. And, most of the industry financial ratios are compiled and listed using the NAICS/SIC code.
Many resources report statistics (e.g. market shares) for individual companies and analyze this data to track events and project trends in the industry as a whole.
Gale's Business Insights: Essentials (formerly Business and Company Resource Center) includes both company name and industry (using and SIC/NAICS, or service/product name) searches. Both these searches may allow one to link to market share statistics (use the Rankings link.) The database might also list trade associations relevant to that company or industry under the competitors information.
Standard & Poor's Net Advantage provides Internet access to the Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys, an excellent source for economic and business information on over 50 major U.S. and international industries. Users can search by company name or industry to retrieve in-depth reports on the trends, key ratios and statistics, comparative analysis, industry profile, etc. for the selected industry.
Industry Market Research from IBISWorld contains over 700 industry reports with key statistics, analysis, 5-year projections and geographic trends. You may search by SIC or NAICS code, keyword or company name or browse by industry.
Ratio analysis is the study of relationships between items on financial statements. A company's financial ratios may be used as measures of corporate performance when they are compared to previous years' ratios. Industry standards compare a particular company's ratios to those of other companies in the same business.
Print industry ratio sources, which are reported by SIC/NAICS codes, include:
- RMA's Annual Statement Studies (REF HF5681.B2 R58)
- Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios (REF HF5681.R25 T68)
- IRS Corporate Financial Ratios (REF HF5681.R25 I78)
- Dun & Bradstreet's Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios (REF HF 5681 .R25 I53)
If you're looking for industry ratios and they are not included in the databases described below, contact the Reference Desk at 314-968-6950 or 1-800-985-4279 or via our Ask a Librarian e-mail service. We can check to see if the industry report for the SIC/NAICS code you seek is available in one of the print resources listed above. Webster extended campus patrons may request specific reports via our Document Delivery Service.
Online via our Web site, you may access:
- The BizMiner database provides financial and industry data for over 16,000 lines of business in 300 U.S. markets, including both 3- and 5-year industry financial profiles and ratios.
Trade and industry associations often collect and publish information of interest to their members. You may read or hear that an association or industry group has released a study in which you're interested. While access to much of it may be "controlled" ( i.e. only available to members), some associations distribute basic information to the public through their Web sites. Many also release summary information in trade and industry publications for which the full text is often available on our Web site. See the section of this guide which covers Finding Articles for more information.
If one completes either a company name or industry search on Business Insights: Essentials (formerly Business and Company Resource Center), the database will list trade associations relevant to that company or industry under the competitors area.
To find associations by subject or name, try these:
- The Encyclopedia of Associations, is a standard print reference set available in many libraries (Emerson Call Number: REF AS 22 .E5).
- The Business Insights: Essentials (formerly Business and Company Resource Center) contains directory listings, including the URL for the Web site if available, for associations in all disciplines. (Hint: Search the association's name in the "company name" box.)
- Internet directories/search engines, e.g. ipl2 - Internet Public Library & Librarians' Internet Index and Yahoo!, often provide links to directories of associations under the "Organizations" category.
There are a number of databases that cover business law and the legal aspects of management.
- LEXIS-NEXIS Academic
- An excellent source for legal, government, political, business, medical, and general information. The database has full-text of federal cases and statutes that involve specific areas of business law. When you connect to the database, choose the "Legal Research" area and then select the link, "Area of Law by Topic". The search form allows you to specify the topic: Corporate Law, Cyberlaw, Environmental Law, Health Law, International Trade, Labor Law, etc. Searches will return the full-text of federal cases and statutes concerned with that area of business law. Here is a sample search:
- CCH IntelliConnect (formerly CCH Internet Research NetWork)
- Another excellent database for legal information. CCH provides current news, practices, guidelines, cases, laws, and regulations regarding human resource management, employment and health law, occupational safety, pension, payroll, benefits, etc. For help using this database, check out the IntelliConnect Quick Reference card (PDF) on the publisher's website.
Public information is generally available to anyone who wants it. Examples include financial statements of public companies and business licenses granted by municipalities. However, public information is not always free and is not always easily accessible in a useful format.
By contrast, proprietary information is collected for internal use of the organization and is often not available to outsiders. Examples include sales records, personnel files, and market research reports.
Another category of proprietary information is known as controlled publications. These materials are available only to 'qualified subscribers'. Examples include the Multiple Listing information shared by realtors and the Arbitron radio and television ratings which are available only to broadcasters and advertising agency subscribers. While the larger documents from which it is extracted can be difficult or impossible to obtain, summaries of this information may be reported in news or trade publications. See Finding Articles for more on finding articles in periodicals.
Governments and their agencies are excellent sources of business and demographic statistics. The US Government Printing Office is the largest publisher in the United States. US state and local governments collect all kinds of information, e.g. state transportation departments compile traffic statistics for major highways, and city governments keep records of business licenses. Foreign governments may also be rich sources of information about the country and its trading partners. With the advent of the Internet, much federal information is now distributed online. Passport's Government page links to international, US, state, and local government web pages.
Information collected by governments and many associations is not always free. For example, the US Department of Commerce (http://www.commerce.gov) publishes some business statistics (e.g. the latest economic indicators) and reports on its Web site for free. The Library pays for a subscription to a database called Stat-USA which is produced by the Department of Commerce. Stat-USA collects a great variety of business, economic and marketing information from many governmental departments and agencies. Through Stat-USA students can access both the State of the Nation Library of US current and historical economic data and the National Trade DataBank (NTDB) for international economic and trade data.
|"Lies, damn lies, and statistics"*
If you intend to use and/or quote statistics in your research, be very careful--especially if you are using someone else's interpretation of the numbers and their significance. It is often best to find the original source of the statistics to make sure the statistical analysis is logical and is not taken out of context. Statistics can often be interpreted in different ways depending on one's point-of-view.
*Quote attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of England
Many universities require the preparation of a master's thesis or a doctoral dissertation for completion of an advanced degree. Any theses and dissertations given to the Library are cataloged in the library's online catalog. Note that not all programs require a formal thesis or dissertation and not all programs submit these documents to the library. You may need to contact your department to see if copies are available in their office instead. To learn how to search for such items, see our Webster/Eden Theses or Dissertations page.
If you find a dissertation or thesis in our catalog and you'd like to see it, St Louis area students may visit the library to look at a copy. Extended campus students may request a copy using the library's Document Delivery Service.
Dissertations & Theses @ Webster University contains Webster doctoral dissertations and masters level theses submitted summer, 2005 to the present. Webster faculty, staff, and students may view the full text for free. (PDF files require the Adobe Acrobat Reader.)
Dissertation Abstracts Online (a FirstSearch database) indexes dissertations and theses accepted at accredited U.S institutions since 1861. It selectively covers masters theses, Canadian dissertations, and British and other European dissertations. As the name implies, you can only find an abstract of the document on this database. Abstracts are often sufficient to explore what research is currently being done in your field. Usually only the library affiliated with the institution that granted the degree will hold a copy of the dissertation.
Note: Unless you are working on an extensive research project, it may not be necessary to consult theses or dissertations. It is recommended that you exhaust other options for research first (i.e. library catalogs, databases, research handbooks, etc.).